Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Race and Ethnicity as Risk factors for Diabetes called Into Question

The message that certain racial or ethnic groups may be more predisposed to type 2 diabetes has been in the diabetes literature for years.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors include "Race/ethnicity (African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Native Americans all have high rates of diabetes)."
- MedlinePlus, Type 2 Diabetes (A service of the US National Institutes of Health)
"Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders."
- American Diabetes Association, Type 2 Diabetes

A study published in the journal Cultural Anthropology in February calls this into question.
“Our study challenges the presumption that Native American, Mexican American, African American, Australian Aborigine, or other indigenous groups are genetically prone to diabetes,” said anthropologist Michael Montoya. “The evidence demonstrates that higher rates of diabetes across population groups can be explained by non-genetic factors alone.”
- Ethnic Groups’ Genes Not to Blame For Diabetes
"Unfortunately, looking for genetic factors that influence diabetes in ethnic groups ignores the social factors like poverty and access to health care that have a much stronger correlation to the rates of diabetes among certain groups. And if we don’t understand that those groups are not biological, we will look for biological explanations for their disease rates when we should be looking for social ones."
- Study of Diabetes and Race Reveals the Imperfect Science of Defining Ethnic Groups, Diabetic Gourmet Magazine

If it's true that social, economic, environmental, political, and historical factors have interfered with how researchers have defined race and ethnicity in studies, the diabetic literature may need editing.

For the study (abstract):
Bioethnic Conscription: Genes, Race, and Mexicana/o Ethnicity in Diabetes Research