The Latino community has diabetes rates twice as high as those of non-Latino whites. Turns out the reason Latinos are at such drastically higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes may have to do with ethnic differences in how the pancreas (or organ that produces metabolism-regulating insulin and digestion-promoting enzymes) acts under certain circumstances, finds a new Diabetes Care study.
Researchers who compared overweight black, Latino, and white adults experiencing similar prediabetes symptoms found that Latinos tended to store fat in the pancreas and that, compared to participants of other ethnicities, Latinos were less likely to be able to produce enough insulin to compensate. According to the Cedars-Sinai researchers, this may explain why Latinos are at increased risk for the disease.
The tissue in the body specifically designed to store fat stops working in people who are massively overweight. This causes fat to invade the liver, pancreas, and muscle. Some people’s bodies are able to compensate by secreting more insulin when this happens. Latinos’ pancreases, though, appear not to be able to compensate in this way, increasing their likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.
“In our study, we found Latinos were especially vulnerable, as they tended to store more fat in the pancreas and their compensatory insulin secretion was entirely suppressed,” said lead researcher Lidia Szczepaniak, PhD, director of magnetic resonance spectroscopy at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and Biomedical Imaging Research Institute, in a statement.
If you are Latino, try to work especially closely with your doctor to manage all risk factors for the disease, paying close attention to your diet and aiming to squeeze in 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Additionally, the American Diabetes Association provides helpful diabetes prevention and management info in Spanish, if you know families who may benefit from this.