Ethnic disparities in type 2 diabetes: pathophysiology and implications for prevention and management

J Natl Med Assoc. 2003 Sep;95(9):774, 779-89.


Based on 2000 census data, ethnic minorities constitute approximately 25% of the overall population of the United States, and the population of minority groups has been increasing at a faster rate than the general U.S. population. Compared with caucasians, persons from minority ethnic groups suffer disproportionately from type 2 diabetes and its long-term complications. Acute complications of diabetes occur with varying frequencies in the different demographic groups, but there are indications that the rate of hospitalization for diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic coma may be higher among certain minority populations. Genetic and lifestyle factors likely account for the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes among ethnic minorities. However, the increase in morbidity and mortality from diabetes may be the result, in part, of socioeconomic factors. Pathophysiologically, several studies have documented a higher prevalence of insulin resistance in minority groups, even after correction for obesity and lifestyle factors. These findings underscore the need for a more aggressive approach to diabetes management in high-risk populations. Behavioral and pharmacologic interventions that reduce insulin resistance have profound beneficial effects in African-American patients and subjects with diabetes from other ethnic groups. Indeed, much of the ethnic difference in morbidity from diabetic complications disappears when caucasians and non-caucasians are treated to identical degrees of glycemic control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Circulation
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / ethnology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Incidence
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Thiazoles / therapeutic use
  • Thiazolidinediones*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Thiazoles
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • 2,4-thiazolidinedione