London Immigrants Develop Diabetes at Double Rate of Local Brits

Men and women who immigrated to the U.K. from India, West Africa and the Caribbean developed diabetes at twice the rate of British people of European descent, according to a 20-year study.

Type 2 diabetes developed in 33 percent of Indian immigrants and 30 percent of African Caribbeans, compared with 14 percent of Brits of European descent, according to a study led by Nish Chaturvedi at Imperial College London following almost 5,000 people. The study was published today in Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Type 2 diabetes typically results from obesity around the waistline and growing resistance to insulin, which helps the body metabolize sugar. The higher prevalence of diabetes among Indians and African Caribbeans may have resulted from observed changes in diet, particularly increased consumption of higher-fat meals, when migrating to the U.K., rather than genetic factors, Chaturvedi said.

“The jury is still out as to whether there is a genetic explanation,” Chaturvedi told reporters in London today.

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and British Heart Foundation, looked at first-generation migrants in London between the ages of 40 and 69 who didn’t already have Type 2 diabetes at the start of the study in 1988.

While Africans, African Caribbeans and Europeans are typically diagnosed at about age 66 or 67, South Asian men were five years younger on average at the time of diagnosis, suggesting they are at greater risk of complications, according to the study authors.

Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 2.9 million people in the U.K., requiring 11.9 billion pounds ($19 billion) in treatment of the condition and its complications such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease, according to the Wellcome Trust.