Asian Americans at Higher Risk for Metabolic Syndrome

Having excess body weight can put you at risk for a variety of diseases like diabetes, cancer and also metabolic syndrome.  Past research showed that the more excess body weight you have, the more likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome later in life.  So to reduce your risk, simply maintain a normal body weight.  Well, not so fast.  It now appears that metabolic syndrome seems to not only favor excess body weight, but also behaves differently among various ethnicities.

A recent study focused on Asian Americans in particular and found that Asians were more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome than their Non-Hispanic Whites counterparts regardless of their body mass index (BMI).   Approximately 30 percent of Asians would suffer from metabolic syndrome, for example, as opposed to only 12 percent of Non-Hispanic whites having metabolic syndrome with the same BMI.

Research also shows that compared to Non-Hispanic Whites, Asians are more likely to have insulin resistance, decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the “good cholesterol”) and increased triglyceride levels, further putting them at higher risk for metabolic syndrome and other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

What these findings tell us is that like many other diseases, metabolic syndrome is not a one-size-fits-all type of a condition.  In the same way metabolic syndrome affects Asians differently than Non-Hispanic Whites, similar differences can be seen across all ethnic groups.  We may soon have customized risk factor parameters for metabolic syndrome based on your ethnicity.

In the meantime, what you can do to combat metabolic syndrome is:

  • Be physically active.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, limit alcohol).
  • Try to maintain a healthy body weight (avoid abdominal obesity a.k.a.”apple-shaped”).

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