Insulin varies among ethnicities, study finds

The ability of the body to release and respond to insulin may have to do with one's ethnicity, according to a new study from Lund University in Sweden, Stanford University and Kitasato University in Japan.

Results of the study showed that healthy people – regardless of ethnicity – were able to maintain normal blood glucose levels, but the mechanisms through which this happened varied depending on ethnicity.

About the study

Researchers conducted a systematic review of 180 published articles, finding that there are major differences among ethnicities when it comes to either the body's ability to produce insulin or the body's baseline insulin sensitivity level.

The study looked at three main ethnic groups: Africans, Caucasians and East Asians, including 3,813 individuals total. Then researchers divided the subjects into three other groups: healthy individuals, those at risk for diabetes and those who had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Findings

Results showed that Africans tend to have lower insulin sensitivity, but that they compensate for this by releasing larger quantities of insulin, said Damon Tojjar, a doctoral student at the Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC).

In contrast, East Asians appear to exhibit an opposite trend: they have good insulin sensitivity, but appear to have a harder time releasing more insulin when it is needed.

"Caucasians fall somewhere between the two extremes," Tojjar said. "Both insulin release and insulin sensitivity are affected."

And while the researchers aren't sure how ethnic background influences these changes, they hope that further studies can shed more light on the subject.

"Our findings and the fantastic developments in genetic research make us optimistic that we can continue to map the important differences that cause a failure in the production of insulin and reduced insulin sensitivity so that we can emphasize personalized treatment in the future," Tojja concluded.

Source: Lund University

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