Diabetes in African Americans: unique pathophysiologic features

Curr Diab Rep. 2004 Jun;4(3):219-23. doi: 10.1007/s11892-004-0027-3.


Type 2 diabetes is an increasing public health problem among African Americans, especially children. Several features make type 2 diabetes among African Americans unique. First, African-American adults with type 2 diabetes, or Flatbush diabetes, present with diabetic ketoacidosis. Patients are insulin resistant with acute, severe defects in insulin secretion and no islet cell autoantibodies. Following treatment, some insulin secretory capacity is recovered and ketoacidosis generally does not recur. The second is remission in African Americans with type 2 diabetes. Recovery of glucose homeostasis, accompanied by recovery of beta-cell function, follows intensive glycemic regulation. Finally, among African Americans with diabetes who are not obese, normal insulin sensitivity is not uncommon. Such individuals do not have the increased cardiovascular risk of insulin-resistant individuals. Differences in visceral, not subcutaneous, adipose tissue volume appear to determine insulin sensitivity. Understanding the unique physiologic and clinical features of African Americans is critical in designing appropriate treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • United States / epidemiology