Type 2 diabetes in the Filipino: Is it any different? | Inquirer Business

Type 2 diabetes in the Filipino: Is it any different?

A to Z of Health
/ 01:57 AM August 15, 2015

Anyone can get diabetes…young or old, rich or poor, male or female, Filipino or not.

In the Philippines, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology 8th National Nutrition Survey, diabetes prevalence based on fasting blood sugar has risen from 3.4 percent in 2003 to 5.4 percent in 2013. The greatest numbers of Filipinos with diabetes are 50 to 69 years of age and wealthy, and live in urban areas.

Not surprising since type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is both a genetic and a lifestyle disease linked to aging, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, obesity and urbanization.


About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have T2DM. Risk factors include: age at or above 30 years, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, polycystic ovary syndrome, gestational or pregnancy-related diabetes, intake of certain drugs, and sleep deprivation. People who were born premature, too heavy (>/= 8 pounds) or too small are also at risk for T2DM.


Type 2 diabetes is characterized by impairment in insulin secretion or action, which can lead to high blood sugar. High blood sugar can wreak havoc in the body’s circulation and immune system leading to infections, blindness, kidney failure, leg amputation, heart attacks and strokes.

Race and ethnicity can also confer higher risk for diabetes.

Filipinos are especially prone to T2DM compared to other races. In fact, Filipinos get diabetes and problems like hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease at a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to Caucasians.

A person’s BMI is calculated by dividing one’s body weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters. A BMI of 25 and above is considered overweight for Caucasians, while a BMI of 23 and above is the cutoff for Asians.

One possible reason for the higher T2DM risk is that Filipinos have more visceral fat despite having similar BMIs or waistlines as their Caucasian counterparts. Visceral fat is the nasty fat inside the belly stored in or around the internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines, which can lead to defective insulin action.

In studies done in North America, Filipino migrants have even been found to have higher rates of T2DM compared to other Asians such as the Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.


To add insult to injury, studies suggest that Filipinos may also have more diabetes complications like eye and kidney disease compared to other races.

But Pinoys need not sulk about getting the short end of the stick. Filipino or not, you can cut your diabetes risk. Just eat right, move more, stay trim, sleep well, stress less and get checked.

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Dr. Joy Arabelle Fontanilla is the past president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Philippine Chapter and head of the Weight Management Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City. The A to Z of Health information advocacy is a joint initiative of a group of medical specialists and supported by AstraZeneca Philippines aimed at raising public awareness on various diseases and providing health information and updates to the healthcare community.

TAGS: diabetes, health and science, type 2

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