Engaging the ASEAN Diaspora: Type 2 Diabetes Prevalence, Pathophysiology, and Unique Risk Factors among Filipino Migrants in the United States

  • Maria Rosario Araneta University of California San Diego, School of Medicine
Keywords: type 2 diabetes, immigration, adiposity, Southeast Asia


Type 2 diabetes prevalence is rising rapidly in Southeast Asia (SEA) where urbanization and adoption of ‘western’ behavioral lifestyles are attributed as predominant risk factors. The Southeast Asian diaspora to the United States has resulted in a sizable portion of migrant and US born SEAs, with approximately 4 million Filipino Americans, 2 million Vietnamese-Americans, Cambodians (330,000), and Thai (300,000) as the most populous. Their longer exposure to a western lifestyle and participation in clinical studies with other racial/ethnic groups, provide opportunities to evaluate etiologic factors which might inform trends and intervention opportunities among residents of Southeast Asia.

Epidemiologic studies in the US have identified higher T2D prevalence among Filipinos (16.1%) compared to groups perceived to be at highest risk for T2D, namely Latinos (14.0%), Black (13.7%), and Native Americans (13.4%), while SEAs (including Burmese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Laotian, Malaysian, and Thai, 10.5%) and Vietnamese (9.9%) had higher T2D risk compared to Whites (7.7%), despite their absence of general obesity. Asian-Americans, including SEAs, East and South Asians, collectively have higher rates of undiagnosed T2D compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the US. Almost half (44%) of Filipinos with newly diagnosed T2D have isolated post-challenge hyperglycemia and will remain undiagnosed if current screening practices remain limited to measures of glycosylated hemoglobin and fasting plasma glucose.

The University of California San Diego Filipino Health Study found excess visceral adipose tissue accumulation, low ratio of muscle to total abdominal mass area, low adiponectin concentration, multiparity (≥6 live births), and sleep insufficiency (<7 hours) to be unique T2D risk factors among Filipino-American women, even after adjusting for established T2D risk factors including hypertension and parental history of T2D. Social determinants such as low educational attainment (less than college completion), and sustained social disadvantage during childhood and adulthood were independently associated with T2D risk. Gestational diabetes is a known risk factor for future T2DM among women; Northern California data shows that following Asian Indians, gestational diabetes was highest among Filipina and SEA parturients, who had twice the GDM prevalence as Black, Hispanic, and White women. Identification of novel T2D risk factors among SEAs may guide early diagnosis, inform pathophysiology, and identify unique opportunities for T2D prevention and management.


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Author Biography

Maria Rosario Araneta, University of California San Diego, School of Medicine

Professor of Epidemiology

Department of Family Medicine and Public Health

Assistant Dean of Diversity and Community Partnerships




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How to Cite
Araneta, M. R. (2019). Engaging the ASEAN Diaspora: Type 2 Diabetes Prevalence, Pathophysiology, and Unique Risk Factors among Filipino Migrants in the United States. Journal of the ASEAN Federation of Endocrine Societies, 34(2), 127-133. https://doi.org/10.15605/jafes.034.02.02
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