Skip to content

How Does Ethnicity Affect Type 2 Diabetes? By Aditi Mudaliar

Keeping your weight low, activity up and your diet healthy seems to be the holy trinity of avoiding Type 2 diabetes. But did you know that your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes can be attributed to your roots?

We are all unique; the risk of Type 2 diabetes can depend on factors such as our weight, age, lifestyle, diet and other conditions. However, Type 2 diabetes can be more prevalent in certain ethnic groups. Yes, this can be traced back to our ancestors!

So Why is this? 

Research has shown that South Asians, particularly Indian Asians have a greater genetic predisposition to poor beta cell function and therefore at more risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Beta cells are located in the pancreas and are responsible for secreting insulin in response to blood glucose levels. Those who have higher blood glucose levels than normal cause beta cells to work harder to produce enough insulin to combat this increase. This can result in decreased function of beta cells to regulate blood glucose. This dysregulation over time can cause Type 2 Diabetes.  

The other reason South Asians may be at increased risk is because of our physiology. We tend to have lower muscle mass and a tendency to store fat around our middle, especially in the liver and in our muscles. This affects how well our body can use insulin and over time leads to higher blood glucose levels and eventually Type 2 diabetes.

How do we Manage This?

As South Asians are more susceptible to these factors, it is increasingly important to manage external factors such as our diet and physical activity. 

One of the most important things to do is to reduce your weight if you are overweight. Even losing at little as 5% of your bodyweight can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or help manage your Type 2 diabetes better.

South Asian diets are typically higher in saturated fats, fried foods and sugars. It is crucial to be aware of different foods and how they could impact your blood glucose levels and weight. But it also doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the food you love! Starting with small changes like making healthier food swaps and building on this is often a good way to start. 

Moving throughout the day is important too. Keeping physically active can help manage your weight and promote cardiovascular health. Even as little as 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity a day (brisk walking, running, swimming etc) is proven to be beneficial in managing Type 2 Diabetes. 

What do I do Now?

It might seem as though the world (and your genetics) are against you when it comes to managing your Type 2 Diabetes. However, being mindful of the factors contributing to it, such as your diet, activity levels and stress, can make the world of a difference. 

Here are a few tips to help you along the way.

  1. Limit your carbohydrate portions e.g. rice or roti to a fistful. Try and incorporate wholegrain varieties such as brown rice or whole grain atta.
  2. Try not to skip meals. This helps to ensure you don’t feel hungry and overeat at mealtimes as well as to help control your blood glucose levels.
  3. Cut down on the fat you eat, in particular, saturated fat. These can contribute to the increased accumulation. Try things such as using less butter or ghee when cooking, limiting fried foods, grilling, steaming or baking your meat and fish and skimming the oil off of dishes before serving. 
  4. Aim to eat more fruit and vegetables. These can include fresh or frozen sources! Rich in nutrients, these are nature’s goodness. Try to include a variety of veg or salad in every meal – it should make up at least half your plate. A portion of fruit is always a great option for a snack or dessert.
  5. Get moving! Find a way of exercising that you enjoy. It could be brisk walking, dancing, jogging or swimming. Vigorous enough for you to break a sweat, aim for at least 30 minutes a day.
  6. Be mindful – stress can impact us in more ways than we think. High blood pressure can cause us problems in the long run. Try and find a few minutes a day to relieve stress by taking a pause.

We’ve Got You! 

Here at Planet Nourish, we have culturally tailored solutions to help reduce diet-related conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and its associated risks. We have a love for food, family and community just like you and strive to link heritage and health. From chef-led cooking and training to hands-on support, we encourage you to keep your health in your hands. 

No need to rest the rotis! Just leave it to us to support you on your journey! 

Download our FREE app and get access to the Planet Nourish community, weekly live sessions, individual coaching, cooking and nutrition tips. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *