Why is diabetes prevalent in South Asians?

At present diabetes affects 415 million people worldwide and is expected that by 2040 around 642 million people will be affected with diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to be the sixth leading cause of mortality in the world. In the UK around 4 million people are living with diabetes. The estimation shows that around 10% of these people have Type 1 diabetes and around 90% have Type 2. The condition will continue to have a considerable impact on South Asian communities across the UK. On the other hand, diabetes goes largely unnoticed and untreated in Afghanistan. It is estimated that around 2.7 million or 8.5% of the Afghan population suffer from diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition that is characterised by the resistance of insulin (e.g. the body is unable to effectively use insulin) and Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin at all. (Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy).



South Asians are a heterogeneous group of people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indian, Pakistan, and etc. With differing in culture, religion, language, and rates of diabetes, particularly Type 2. There is a pattern of sedentary lifestyle, obesity, physical inactivity and diet preferences which have contributed to the factors behind the rise of diabetes amongst South Asian communities.


The rising prevalence of diabetes represents a serious clinical and financial challenge to the UK, NHS and respectively costing people a lot of money in Afghanistan. Studies have shown that South Asian people are six times more likely to be diabetic compared to the white population. Studies have also reported that South Asian people are at higher risk of having Type 2 Diabetes in the UK –due to the ‘traditional’ dietary habits such as higher intakes of saturated fats and sugars. Other studies have also emphasised that the reasons behind the rise of diabetes in South Asians are due to their dietary habits and physical inactivity. South Asian’s higher intake of carbohydrates such as ‘rice and bread which are highly refined carbohydrates are consumed as part of their day-to-day diet. Scientific research shows that ‘dietary habits such as increased intake of saturated fats and sugars, together with the lack of physical activity, increase insulin resistance.


To conclude why diabetes is common in South Asians previous literature have been explored and the result suggested that it is the unhealthy foods, physical inactivity, and sedentary lifestyle that has a negative impact on South Asian communities health and well-being in the UK and likewise in Afghanistan.



References available upon request




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