Context: Although the excess prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in African Americans is well established, few studies have compared incident diabetes in African American and white persons.
Objectives: To compare risk of incident diabetes in African American vs white adults and to identify explanatory factors for racial disparities.
Design: Prospective cohort study using baseline data collected from 1986 to 1989 from the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, with 9 years of follow-up.
Setting and participants: A total of 2646 African American and 9461 white adults aged 45 to 64 years without diabetes at baseline, sampled from 4 US communities.
Main outcome measures: Incident type 2 diabetes, ascertained by self-report of physician diagnosis, use of diabetes medications, or fasting glucose level of at least 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/dL), compared among white and African American subjects and by presence of potentially modifiable risk factors.
Results: Diabetes incidence per 1000 person-years was about 2.4-fold greater in African American women (25.1 [95% confidence interval [CI], 22.4-28.1] vs 10.4 [95% CI, 9.4-11.4]) and about 1.5-fold greater in men (23.4 [95% CI, 19.9-27.2] vs 15.9 [95% CI, 14.6-17.2]) than in their white counterparts (P<.001). Results from proportional hazards regression models indicated that racial differences in potentially modifiable risk factors, particularly adiposity, accounted for 47.8% of the excess risk in African American women but accounted for little excess risk in African American men. Compared with their white counterparts, African American men and women had higher blood pressures before diabetes onset (diastolic blood pressure difference=5.6 mm Hg in women and 8.4 mm Hg in men; P=.005).
Conclusions: Our data indicate that compared with their white counterparts, middle-aged African Americans are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and have higher blood pressure prior to development of diabetes. In women, almost 50% of this excess risk might be related to potentially modifiable factors.