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Diabetes rates for Japanese-Americans

Diabetes rates nearly double for Japanese-Americans

The prevalence increased markedly with age - one-quarter of non-obese Japanese Americans aged 80 and older had diabetes

Japanese-American adults who are not obese have a much higher prevalence of diabetes than non-obese non-Hispanic white Americans (8.0% vs. 4.5%), according to researchers at the University of Victoria, University of Toronto, and University at Albany, SUNY.

"In this study of non-obese adults, Japanese Americans had twice the odds of diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites, and this difference remained even after adjustments were made for known risk factors of diabetes including age, sex, income, education and health behaviours," said lead author Karen Kobayashi, Associate Dean Research and Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences, professor in the Department of Sociology and a research affiliate at the Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria.

The study, ‘Diabetes and Diabetes Care among Nonobese Japanese-Americans: Findings from a Population-Based Study’, published in the Advances in Preventive Medicine, examined a representative sample of community-dwelling Californians aged 18 and older from seven combined waves of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) conducted between 2007 and 2016. The study sample was restricted to Japanese Americans (n=2,295) and non-Hispanic whites (n=119,651) who were non-obese, defined as having a BMI<30.

Not only did the researchers report that the findings indicate that the prevalence of diabetes among Japanese-American respondents was higher than their non-Hispanic whites counterparts (8.0% versus 4.5%), the prevalence increased markedly with age; one-quarter of nonobese Japanese Americans aged 80 and older had diabetes.

"Among non-obese Japanese Americans, younger respondents, never smokers and those with a post-secondary degree were less likely to have diabetes,” said study co-author, Keith Tsz-Kit Chan, assistant professor, School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, SUNY. “Those born abroad had a comparable prevalence of diabetes to Japanese-Americans born in the United States. In contrast to our expectations, gender, poverty status and exercise were not associated with the prevalence of diabetes, once age was taken into account."

To the authors knowledge, this study is the first large population-based study to examine the prevalence of diabetes among nonobese Japanese-Americans. In summary, the results suggest that older Japanese-Americans are at high risk of developing diabetes, highlighting an urgent need for front-line healthcare professionals as well as health policy makers to develop appropriate intervention and prevention approaches with lifestyle modification specifically targeted towards nonobese Japanese-Americans as they get older.

"Although Japanese-Americans and white Americans with diabetes were equally likely to receive foot exams and haemoglobin A1C checks, both groups would benefit from targeted outreach because more than one-quarter of respondents had not received these treatments at an optimal frequency in the preceding year," said co-author, Mushira Mohsin Khan, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and a research affiliate at the Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria.

“It is important for family physicians and other healthcare professionals to note that there is still substantial room for improvement for both Japanese-Americans and NHWs with regard to the frequency of provision of foot exams and haemoglobin A1C checks,” the authors concluded.

"Since two-thirds of Japanese-Americans with diabetes were not obese, it is clearly important that family doctors and other health-care professionals regularly screen their Japanese-American patients for diabetes, even if they are not overweight and they have no known risk factors for diabetes," said co-author, professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging.

To access this paper, please click here

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