Why is diabetes Type 2 a problem for South Asians?

About me

Hi, I’m Dr. Vinesh Dhir. I am an Asian British doctor from London. Currently I work as a general practitioner in SW London surgeries, including HIYOS. HIYOS is based in the borough of Hounslow which contains a 9% Asian or Asian british population. As a result, meeting patients of the South Asian population is a large proportion of my workload. I notice that a large proportion of South Asians are newly diagnosed with diabetes type 2. I hope by writing this blog, I will be able to raise awareness of this matter. Please remember that these blog posts should not replace you seeking advice directly from your doctor if you have any concerns.

What is diabetes type 2?

Simply put, diabetes is a common lifelong condition that causes the level of glucose to become too high. It is caused by problems with a hormone called insulin. Symptoms can include an increase in thirst, passing urine frequently and tiredness. It can increase your risk of developing serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.

Diabetes in South Asians

The south Asian community in the UK is largely based on people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. South Asians make up only 4% of the UK population, however, account for about 8% of all undiagnosed cases of diabetes.

People from South Asian origin are up to 6 times more likely to develop diabetes type 2 compared to Europeans. 

Not only are South Asians more likely to develop diabetes, they also have poorer management of diabetes, which increases the risks of serious health issues. Furthermore, survival rates of young patients with diabetes and heart disease are also lower compared to the Caucasian population.

What are the causes?

Important to realize is that there is no definitive answer to the question of what causes diabetes in South Asians. However, a variety of factors play a role, including genetic predisposition, obesity and lifestyle choices.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that adults of South Asian origin are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they have:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 23 or more, indicating they are overweight, and/or
  • A waist size of 35 inches or more for males, and 31.5 inches or more for females.

Foods high in sugar and fast foods are thought to be strong contributors to obesity, and potentially developing diabetes.

In future blogs, we can discuss how to prevent diabetes, and programmes available.

If you want to read more about this topic, take a look at the following great resources:



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