South Asian New Yorkers Have Higher Diabetes Rate Than Others

Asian immigrants in New York City are less likely than U.S.-born residents to have diabetes, according to a new study.

But there's a big exception.

South Asians—those from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan—are significantly more likely to be diabetic than either native New Yorkers or than fellow immigrants from the rest of Asia.

A new study by the city's Health Department found that 14 percent of adult South Asians had diabetes, compared with 9 percent of the city’s overall population and 7 percent of other Asians.

Researcher Leena Gupta says diabetes is more frequent among South Asians, even when they’re in the normal weight range.
"There’s this perception out there that you’re only at risk for diabetes, if you’re overweight," Gupta said. "Our data shows this is not the case for South Asians, and may not be for other groups as well."

Gupta says theories on the disparity have focused on genetics and diet and lifestyle.

"But the truth is no one really knows why this difference exists," she said, "which is all the more reason to continue researching this population especially as it grows in NYC and globally."

Gupta says the study suggests that even South Asians who eat well and appear to be healthy should see doctors regularly and get screened for diabetes.