Young South Asians Hit With The Highest New Cases Of Type 2 Diabetes
A new BC study suggests while Type 2 diabetes has drastically increased among young people in general but the number of young South Asians affected is at an alarming rate, that of twice the rate of Caucasian youth and triple that of Chinese in the same age group.
By R. Paul Dhillon
With News Files
VANCOUVER – Young South Asians were hit with the highest new cases of Type 2 diabetes according to a British Columbia study released this week.
The study suggests while Type 2 diabetes has drastically increased among young people in general but the number of young South Asians affected is at an alarming rate, that of twice the rate of Caucasian youth and triple that of Chinese in the same age group.
The study says 62 per cent of white youth with diabetes have Type 2, while in South Asians that number rises to 86 per cent and in Chinese youth it is 87 per cent.
The study led by Providence Health Care found that the majority of young people under 30 with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, which, unlike Type 1, is caused mostly by obesity and physical inactivity and was previously linked to older adults, reported Canadian Press.
Dr. Calvin Ke, one of the study authors along with Surrey-based Dr. Parmjit Singh Sohal, says urgent action is needed to prevent Type 2 diabetes among youth who are being diagnosed as early as age 20, though screening for the disease doesn’t start until age 40.
“South Asians are three to five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than the general population,” said co-author Dr. Sohal, a family physician in Surrey and Clinical Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Family Practice. “This study suggests that this increased risk of Type 2 diabetes may begin at a much younger age likely by age 20.”
Senior author Dr. Nadia Khan says although the study did not look at the causes of rising rates of youth diabetes, obesity, high-calorie diets laden with sugar and sedentary lifestyles are likely responsible.
High-calorie diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles are being blamed for the surge.
“We really need to take a look at what we’re doing in terms of lifestyle. Things that we can do include increasing our exercise levels, having healthier diets, decreased calorie consumption can all help,” says Dr. Ke with St. Paul’s Hospital.
The study, titled Diabetes in the young: A population-based study of South Asian, Chinese, and White people, (Ke, C., Sohal, P., Qian, H., Quan, H, Khan, N.) was published online on January 28 in the UK journal Diabetic Medicine.
“Over the last few decades, lifestyles have changed dramatically. Many now live in urbanized environments where people are generally less active, and eat more high-calorie foods. These changes have led to an astounding increase of young people with diabetes,” said Dr. Calvin Ke, first author and a resident in Internal Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital. “We need to act urgently to prevent diabetes in young people.”
Type 2 diabetes can be controlled and prevented, or at least delayed, with proper nutrition and exercise. The researchers believe these increased rates in youth are a signal that we need to encourage healthy lifestyles beginning in childhood in order to prevent these diseases.
“Current Clinical Practice Guidelines recommend that screening for Type 2 diabetes should start at age 40 in the general population,” said co-author Dr. Khan, an Associate Professor at UBC Faculty of Medicine. “This study suggests that screening for Type 2 diabetes in high-risk South Asians may need to start at younger ages.”
There are about 382 million people with diabetes in the world and this number is estimated to increase to 592 million by 2035. Canada, with a population of about 35 million, has about 3 million people with diabetes.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, adult blindness, and non-traumatic limb amputations in Canadian adults. The burden of diabetes in the young is relevant given that over half of the global population is aged 29 years and younger.
“We should likely start screening South Asians for Type 2 diabetes as early as age 20. Primary prevention of diabetes is of paramount importance to reduce the burden of diabetes and its complications,” said Dr. Sohal.