Study to asses diabetes risk in Asians

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are to investigate why ethnic differences mean some people are more likely to develop diabetes.

Professor Naveed Sattar will lead a team who are to look into the reasons why Asians are four-times more likely to develop diabetes than Europeans.

And the Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University and colleagues are looking for volunteers to take part in the ground-breaking study.

Professor Sattar said: “Doctors know that South Asians experience more than 4-fold higher rates of diabetes compared with individuals of European descent but they key question is why.

"All over the world, 25 per cent to 30 per cent of Asian adults may have diabetes, against an average of 4 per cent 6 per cent.

“South Asians also develop diabetes at younger ages and at lower body weights than Europeans in the same community. In addition, they have more rapid progression of their diabetes compared with their European peers. 

“This is likely to be due to differences in their metabolism making the insulin that their body makes less effective at controlling blood sugar levels - a condition known as 'insulin resistance' - but it is unclear why this is the case.

“For a given body weight, South Asians do carry more body fat than Europeans, particularly in the 'tummy' region, where extra fat has particularly strong effects on diabetes risk, but this excess fat does not explain all of their increased risk of developing diabetes.

“However, South Asians may also store more fat within their muscles, and this fat may interfere with insulin's action within the muscle, leading to lower uptake of sugar and eventually higher sugar levels in blood sufficient to diagnose diabetes.

“This study will investigate for the first time whether ethnic differences in the ability of muscle to burn fat can help to explain why South Asians have higher rates of diabetes.”

Dr Jason Gill, from the University’s Neurosciences and Biomedical Systems department, said: “This work help guide future research investigating how to reduce this increased risk though lifestyle changes.

“It may also help better targeting and development of drugs to prevent and treat diabetes in this high-risk population.

“This research will be helpful in increasing our understanding of how to prevent late onset diabetes in people at increased risk of developing the disease. 

“Lifestyle changes - taking more exercise, losing weight - remain the most important way of reducing risk of developing late-onset diabetes.  However, current guidelines adopt a more or less 'one-size-fits-all' strategy.

“The findings of this research, together with follow-up studies, may lead to more specific targeted physical activity and dietary guidelines to help reduce diabetes risk for population groups, such as South Asians, who are at increased risk of the disease.”

Two sets of 25 volunteers, one from each ethnic background, will be asked to visit the test team at the university four times over a few weeks.

Everyone who takes part will get a report on their own fitness level, body fat, dietary intake, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and level of insulin resistance.

Non-smoking, healthy men aged 18-40 with South Asian or European parents can get more information on volunteering from Dr Lesley Hall at or call 0141 330 6588 for details.

Notes for editors

For more information please contact Ray McHugh in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email

First published: 30 October 2007

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