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Serious Debate Need Advice: Are blacks and Asians more likely to contract diabetes?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 11, 2011 at 10:46 AM

I'm from the UK by the way.

I was speaking with my nurse and then I said "Do you think Diabetes UK is racist?" because of the following statement on diabetes risk factors:

Ethnicity

African-Caribbean or South Asian people who live in the UK are at least five times more likely to have diabetes than the white population.

She naturally became quite defensive of the NHS (National Health Service UK) "who know everything there is to know about diabetes" so I dropped pursuing the argument. I told my dad who is non-paleo but he just completely rejected anything I said; I think both disagreed with me because of some government-diabetes source from above that says some races are more susceptible to diabetes than "white people."

Personally I don't think the NHS would be so stupid to be blatantly racist and it may be down to a lack of information as ignorance is hardly likely but still possible.

Perhaps though, I could be wrong and some ethnic groups are "5 times more likely" to suffer from diabetes and I should listen to the "experts" and stop ranting about paleo, so forgive me if this sounds absurd, however something tells me I have a good argument here.

One more thing, when I did suggest it might be due to the diet, the nurse told me "skinny Asians come in here and are still 5 times more likely to get diabetes, so its nothing to do with diet." Then I thought of all the "skinny-fat" people around.

E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:50 PM

Well, agree to disagree on this one

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 18, 2011
at 01:15 AM

I don't see how recognition of a variation equals oppression. If someone were taxed differently, systemically or socially denied medical treatment, or treated differently in a blatant or subtle way because of this statistical difference, that would be racist. If your doctor offers additional screening for diabetes based on your ethnicity, not racist. If your insurance carrier drops you or charges more for being an ethnicity that develops diabetes at a greater rate, that is racist. It all depends on what is done with the data, not the data itself.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 18, 2011
at 12:41 AM

I don't see how recognition of a variation equals oppression. If someone were taxed differently, systemically or socially denied medical treatment, or treated differently in a blatant or subtle way because of this statistical difference, that would be racist. If your doctor offers additional screening for diabetes based on your ethnicity, not racist. If your insurance carrier drops you for being an ethnicity that develops diabetes at a greater rate, that is racist. It all depends on what is done with the data, not the data itself.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 18, 2011
at 12:32 AM

Just because there is sun outside doesn't mean people are out in it. We have become an indoor society, vitamin D deficiency can happen even in Alabama or Florida.

E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 17, 2011
at 10:41 PM

Your answer sounds well thought out, but when you consider that fact that there are millions of overweight African Americans in the Southern US where there is plenty of sunlight year round your answer looses all validity. The basic principle is easy, eat as your ancestors have and people of sub-saharan african descent, wherever they may be in the world are descendants of hunter-gatherer peoples. Northern Africans, and Europeans HAVE evolved (albeit slightly) in the last 10,000 years to take in harvested foods. Is there a mystery why many Asians do not process alcohol properly? It's all science

E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 17, 2011
at 10:35 PM

Missed reading this before I inserted my own answer below. Same principle, and I agree with you 100%.

8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

(525)

on April 12, 2011
at 06:45 PM

come on, lets stop blaming race. bad diet = bad health end of story. you said that eating paleo will improve health regardless of ethnicity.

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:08 PM

@ Randle If you have any information on this I would be very interested in reading it! What I have read and experienced with white rice is negative. Devoid of nutrients and quickly turned to sugar in the body. I would be interested in reading any info to the contrary.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 12, 2011
at 07:09 AM

The rice thing is not straight forward. India has high rates in some parts of the country and not so high in other parts. It also ranks 81st out of 192 countries in the world in diabetes prevalence. So...not really super high, and behind many countries that eat very little rice. But Indian people tend to only eat white rice, and more frequently than East Asians (maybe because of the lack of noodle dishes in India). And there's almost nothing higher glycemic than white rice, especially when it's not always coupled with fat.

92920ee5f22da5394804b537cfc4f903

(20)

on April 11, 2011
at 06:39 PM

That's correct. Rice is a safe starch. It's when you start overloading on fructose, plant oils, and other food toxins such as gluten that you could contract diabetes. White rice and most tubers are considered to be safe, and is shown to be so in Paleo literature. The low carb community, however, in its zeal to paint all carbs as bad, sometimes fails to distinguish between safe starches such as rice and bad starches like wheat and gluten-laden grains.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on April 11, 2011
at 04:08 PM

SOUTH ASIANS. Not Asians in general. Rice-eating populations have very low rates of diabetes. South Asians, who use very high amounts of veg oil, have very high rates.

8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

(525)

on April 11, 2011
at 11:46 AM

Thanks Marie. However I did write: Personally I don't think the NHS would be so stupid to be blatantly racist and it may be down to a lack of information as ignorance is hardly likely but still possible. They're not racist of course; I think I was just letting my mind carry me away there.

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7 Answers

8
A480640a53eb5dc8966f49141942f705

on April 11, 2011
at 12:58 PM

i could imagine connections between skin colour, sun exposure, Vitamin D production and deficiency in darker-skinned populations, glucose and insulin regulation, and finally diabetes, so that assertion doesn't sound outlandish to me.

The phrasing of your question suggests a certain knee-jerk political correctness. Ceteris paribus, a black man is going to need more time in the sun than a white man to produce the same amount of Vitamin D. Ergo: nature is racist. Prescriptive colourblindness may be a good idea in political philosophy and human rights but modern medicine is increasingly conscious of individual differences which, for convenience, we treat in the aggregate by race, by gender, and, nowadays, by the single-nucleotide polymorphism.

E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 17, 2011
at 10:41 PM

Your answer sounds well thought out, but when you consider that fact that there are millions of overweight African Americans in the Southern US where there is plenty of sunlight year round your answer looses all validity. The basic principle is easy, eat as your ancestors have and people of sub-saharan african descent, wherever they may be in the world are descendants of hunter-gatherer peoples. Northern Africans, and Europeans HAVE evolved (albeit slightly) in the last 10,000 years to take in harvested foods. Is there a mystery why many Asians do not process alcohol properly? It's all science

E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:50 PM

Well, agree to disagree on this one

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 18, 2011
at 12:32 AM

Just because there is sun outside doesn't mean people are out in it. We have become an indoor society, vitamin D deficiency can happen even in Alabama or Florida.

6
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on April 11, 2011
at 12:52 PM

Unfortunately the typical paleo narrative is that humans are all pretty much the same and we're the same as people from before the agricultural revolution. The truth is that there has been evolution since the invention of agriculture and there are also significant population differences, some that we are just discovering. Some of them are surprising, others are very obvious. Samoans don't eat a diet any worse than most Americans, yet have the highest obesity rate in the world. Why? We should look for genetic reasons.

Not to say that there aren't racial politics to this. I was just at a biology conference and I was talking to some public health folks. One of them was angry that all "African-descent" people were often just grouped as "Black" in studies. Why? Well, that group encompasses people from all over the world, not to mention that Africa is the most genetically diverse continent. In his studies he had subdivided the black category into things like "Afro-Caribbeans born outside the country," "Afro-Caribbeans born in the US," "African-Americans (people whose ancestors came here as slaves hundreds of years ago" and found significant differences in health markers. It becomes even more difficult these days now that people are often mixed. One of my friends is multiracial and he has a gene associated with hypertension in populations of African descent, but his brother does not.

E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 17, 2011
at 10:35 PM

Missed reading this before I inserted my own answer below. Same principle, and I agree with you 100%.

6
Medium avatar

(4878)

on April 11, 2011
at 11:24 AM

No they aren't racist.

There are striking racial differences in our body chemistry which lead to specific diseases, hence fewer Blacks with osteoporosis, when compared to White populations. This is also why pharmaceutical companies can get into trouble by using only White males in their clinical trials and how one company used the racial differences to its advantage: link text

It is sad the nurse's nutrition courses obviously didn't cover any of the genetic differences in biochemistry. It is fascinating science, IMHO.

There are some interesting comments at the bottom of this paper that you should read: link text

8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

(525)

on April 11, 2011
at 11:46 AM

Thanks Marie. However I did write: Personally I don't think the NHS would be so stupid to be blatantly racist and it may be down to a lack of information as ignorance is hardly likely but still possible. They're not racist of course; I think I was just letting my mind carry me away there.

1
183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

on October 18, 2011
at 01:47 AM

With regards to South Asians and diabetes - I do not think that there is any genetic predisposition. Seeing how easily South Asian people (well the ones I know) adapt to the paleo way of life for the better shows how similar we all are. The prevalance of diabetes are due to a multifactorial things such as -

  1. Heavy starch based diets, especially amongst the vegetarians. Roti, rice, legumes make up many meals = triple starch whammy!
  2. Heavy use of sugar - Every cup of tea has to have a couple of teaspoons of sugar
  3. Extremely sweet desserts/sweetmeats. Also more junk food in recent years (just like everyone else)
  4. Not much exercise - your school grades are far more important than physical well-being.
  5. Low vitamin D - darker skin means it's harder to get, and everybody is also extremely paranoid about covering up their skin to avoid the sun - being fair is extremely important.
  6. Tons of sunflower, canola and other vegetable oil use.

All these points come together to form the perfect diabetic storm. My observations mostly pertain to South Asians in western countries - not so much people in the homeland. Would love to delve into the historical nature of diabetes in India. Is it recent or not?

1
E46c729d18071082805378654a2020c5

(186)

on October 17, 2011
at 10:32 PM

Same problem in the United States. Although it is true that a common human ancestry links us all when it comes to genetics and it is also true that agriculture has only been around for about .4% of human existence, the majority of those groups that have lived with agriculture for this amount of time have certainly evolved to be able to handle harvested foods better than traditional hunter gatherer groups in the world.

My mothers side of my family is mostly Afro-cuban and my fathers side of my family are Northern Spaniards. Both sides of my family have basically consumed the exact same Cuban diet for their at least 2 generations, yet my "white" side of my family has little or no problems when it comes to diabetic related illnesses, meanwhile the same cannot be said for the Afro side of my family. Some critics might say that this is because they have a history of diabetes, which is true, but what is this history a result of. Less than 400 years ago my sub-Saharan ancestors were not eating like they are today compared to their European counterparts whom had been doing so for over 10,000 years.

Hope this makes some sense..

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 18, 2011
at 12:41 AM

I don't see how recognition of a variation equals oppression. If someone were taxed differently, systemically or socially denied medical treatment, or treated differently in a blatant or subtle way because of this statistical difference, that would be racist. If your doctor offers additional screening for diabetes based on your ethnicity, not racist. If your insurance carrier drops you for being an ethnicity that develops diabetes at a greater rate, that is racist. It all depends on what is done with the data, not the data itself.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 12, 2011
at 12:25 AM

it is entirely plausible that ethnic variations may influence susceptibility to certain diseases or conditions but only if one eats not as they are designed to eat: thus paleo way of eating is applicable for anyone regardless of ethnic background but different people(s) may react differently to improper diets, like blacks being more likely to have diabetes if they eat according to CW

8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

(525)

on April 12, 2011
at 06:45 PM

come on, lets stop blaming race. bad diet = bad health end of story. you said that eating paleo will improve health regardless of ethnicity.

0
535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 11, 2011
at 02:07 PM

Genetics may play a role, but ultimately it comes down to diet choices. White rice is a terrible food that contributes to diabetes. I know Asians who eat white rice with every meal everyday. Regardless of race, follow a good diet and you will not become diabetic.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on April 11, 2011
at 04:08 PM

SOUTH ASIANS. Not Asians in general. Rice-eating populations have very low rates of diabetes. South Asians, who use very high amounts of veg oil, have very high rates.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 12, 2011
at 07:09 AM

The rice thing is not straight forward. India has high rates in some parts of the country and not so high in other parts. It also ranks 81st out of 192 countries in the world in diabetes prevalence. So...not really super high, and behind many countries that eat very little rice. But Indian people tend to only eat white rice, and more frequently than East Asians (maybe because of the lack of noodle dishes in India). And there's almost nothing higher glycemic than white rice, especially when it's not always coupled with fat.

92920ee5f22da5394804b537cfc4f903

(20)

on April 11, 2011
at 06:39 PM

That's correct. Rice is a safe starch. It's when you start overloading on fructose, plant oils, and other food toxins such as gluten that you could contract diabetes. White rice and most tubers are considered to be safe, and is shown to be so in Paleo literature. The low carb community, however, in its zeal to paint all carbs as bad, sometimes fails to distinguish between safe starches such as rice and bad starches like wheat and gluten-laden grains.

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:08 PM

@ Randle If you have any information on this I would be very interested in reading it! What I have read and experienced with white rice is negative. Devoid of nutrients and quickly turned to sugar in the body. I would be interested in reading any info to the contrary.

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