What ethnic groups are at increased risk for diabetes?

People of some races or ethnic groups have a higher diabetes risk than the general population. Are you African American, Asian American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Pacific Islander? Depending on your background, your risk of type 2 diabetes can be up to 77% higher than it is for your Caucasian friends. You can't change your race or ethnicity, but you can control other diabetes risk factors, such as weight, diet, stress, and sleep. Ask your doctor how often you should be tested for diabetes.
Ronald Tamler, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Asians, African Americans and Native Americans are at greater risk for type 2 diabetes than caucasions. In this video, Ronald Tamler, MD, clinical director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, discusses who else is at higher risk.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Compared with whites, Blacks had 51% higher and Hispanics had 21% higher obesity rates, which is a risk factor for diabetes. To reduce racial and ethnic disparities in obesity and diabetes must intensify our efforts to create an environment for healthy living.

At least three reasons may account for the racial and ethnic differences in obesity. First, racial and ethnic groups differ in behaviors that contribute to weight gain; second explanation may be differences in individual attitudes and cultural norms related to body weight. A third explanation may be differences in access to affordable, healthful foods and safe locations to be physically active; this limited access may negatively impact diet and physical activity levels.

The high prevalence of obesity across all the racial/ethnic groups highlights the importance of implementing effective intervention strategies among the general U.S. population. Given the significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence, it is also crucial to ensure that racial/ethnic groups with the greatest need benefit most from these intervention efforts and are engaged in helping identify effective strategies in their communities. To reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the prevalence of obesity, an effective public health response is needed that includes surveillance, policies, programs, and supportive environments achieved through the effort of government, communities, workplaces, schools, families, and individuals.

While being overweight or obese increases diabetes risk for everyone, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) do not have to be overweight to be at risk for diabetes and have an even greater risk for diabetes with increasing weight compared with other racial and ethnic groups.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.