The incidence of diagnosed diabetes varies significantly among ethnic groups, according to a Canadian study. Overall, South Asians have the highest incidence and Chinese subjects have the lowest.

In addition, for both men and women with newly diagnosed diabetes, mortality rates were significantly lower for South Asians and Chinese than for whites. The risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI), stroke, and heart failure was similar or lower among South Asians and Chinese compared with whites.

The study, led by Nadia A. Khan, MD, MSc, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, included 276,837 individuals aged 35 years and older in British Columbia and Alberta with newly diagnosed diabetes (244,017 whites, 17,754 Chinese, and 15,066 South Asians).

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Among women and men in all age groups, Chinese generally had a lower incidence of diagnosed diabetes than South Asians and whites. Among women aged 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and 65 and older, the incidence per 1,000 population was 2.1, 5.7, 9.1, and 11.5, respectively, for Chinese women, 4.6, 9.3, 15.3, and 12.5 for South Asian women, and 2.7, 5.7, 10.6, and 13.2 for white women, the researchers reported in Diabetes Care (2011;34:96-101).

Among men aged 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and 65 and older, the incidence per 1,000 population was 2.9, 6.7, 12.3, and 11.7 for Chinese men, respectively, 8.4, 12.2, 17.2, and 12.8 for South Asian men, and 3.2, 7.7, 14.1, and 16.8 for white men.

Compared with white women, South Asian and Chinese women had a 31% decreased risk of death. Chinese women had a significant 66% and 58% decreased risk of AMI and heart failure, respectively. The risk of AMI and heart failure was similar for South Asians and whites.

Compared with white men, South Asian and Chinese men had a significant 32% and 39% decreased likelihood of death, respectively. South Asian and Chinese men also had a significant 18% and 19% decreased risk of stroke and 29% and 62% decreased risk of heart failure compared with white men. Chinese men had a significant 63% decreased likelihood of AMI compared with white men. The risk of AMI was similar for South Asian and white men.

“These results may have implications for screening and timing of culturally sensitive interventions to reduce this epidemic,” the authors concluded.