Study Investigates Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in South Asians

south asia obesityA new Canadian study examined the differences in the distribution and characteristics of adipose tissue — the loose connective tissue that stores energy in the form of fat — between South Asians and Caucasians.  Research has shown that South Asians (people originating from the Indian Subcontinent) are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and heart attacks at younger ages in comparison with Caucasians. They are also found to develop these conditions at lower BMI’s than their Caucasian counterparts.

The aim of the study was to determine if differences in the amount of total fat, its distribution and characteristics are responsible for differences in metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease amongst the two ethnic groups. 108 healthy South Asians and Caucasians within three BMI ranges were studied. The researchers measured body composition, adipocyte size, abdominal fat area, and hepatic adiposity in relation to fasting glucose, insulin, lipids and adiponectin.

Using these figures, the researchers found that South Asians have an increased adipocyte area compared to Caucasians. This difference accounts for the ethnic differences in insulin, HDL cholesterol, adiponectin, and ectopic fat deposition in the liver.

We asked Dr. Mona Misra, expert Bariatric Surgeon of Dr. Feiz and Associates in Los Angeles, to comment on the study’s findings. She told us: “As an active metabolic surgeon with a diverse patient population, I have long noticed my Asian patients developing obesity related comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia at much lower weights than their Caucasian counterparts. This study helps explain this phenomenon that exists not only in peoples of Asian origin transplanted to Canada or the US, but also in Asians who are experiencing the same trends in their home countries as they prosper and move from their traditional weights.”

In terms of a lesson for healthcare providers, she explained “the most important message that we as physicians should take away from this is that since this patient population is at higher risk from these life threatening comorbidies at lower BMI’s, they not only should be screened at lower weights, but they  should be offered  surgical interventions at BMI’s that are lower than traditional standards.”

“This is in keeping with the recently lowered guidelines recommended by the FDA for Lap-Band as well as the ASMBS’ attempts to redefine our identity from surgeons who treat weight loss to surgeons who treat metabolic disease and obesity through surgery,” Dr. Misra concluded.

There are many risks for cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, such as age, sex, and family history. You can visit the Mayo Clinic’s website here, to see the comprehensive list of risk factors and learn more about the condition.

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