Asian Americans and Diabetes

Asian Americans and Diabetes

June 21, 2018  |  Blog Post

Key Insight

"Current BMI parameters are outdated and incorrect."

More than half of the Asian American population in the US with diabetes is undiagnosed. The traditional signs of type 2 diabetes are weight gain but for Asian Americans, this traditional sign is not often applicable. This is due to the generally Asian Americans having a lower BMI in comparison to Caucasians. This smaller BMI leads to a greater accumulation of body fat [ii2]. BMI does not take into account the relative proportions of fat and lean tissue and cannot distinguish the location of fat distribution.

Currently, BMI thresholds used to monitor and rate BMI levels is the same for all ethnicities, which is an inaccurate method due to these disparities.

Other telltale signs are unexplained fatigue, thirst, and frequent urination but since Asian Americans often do not display weight gain combined with this other signs, doctors do not screen for type 2 diabetes.

A combination of untreated diabetes and other chronic diseases amongst minority populations had led to over $1.2 trillion in health care costs.

Disease prevention methods only account for around 5% of the total health care costs in the US [1]. The average BMI for the U.S. population as a whole was just below 29. A BMI of 25 to under 30 is considered overweight with a BMI of 30 or greater considered obese. The American Diabetes Association recommends Asian Americans get tested for diabetes at a BMI of 23 or higher, a lower BMI threshold than the general population [iii].

A greater increase in disease prevention methods such as educational programs to educate and encourage lifestyle changes amongst minority populations will allow for misconceptions such as “weight gain being the only factor to having diabetes” being removed from the Asian American population [3]. Cultural sensitivity is also needed when addressing health issues amongst minority populations as traditional views and treatments are favored rather than utilizing consultations and management methods. With the US demographics shifting, it is important to review and recalibrate measuring parameters for diabetes in all ethnicities.  

To further explore the influence of diverse leadership, CHI is organizing our 8th annual Diversity, Inclusion, & Health Equity Symposium is a leading annual, collaborative event focusing on health equity and health disparities in the U.S. The symposium brings together leading healthcare professionals, executives, physicians, patient groups, patients, researchers, academics, clinical trial professionals, and diversity and inclusion advocates to discuss health equity in the life sciences and the health sectors. The symposium focuses on the latest trends, challenges, opportunities in both the marketplace and workplace, with a specific focus on how to best serve an increasingly diverse patient base. We also aim to address the broader health disparity challenges in the U.S., and the symposium equips attendees with the latest insights and ideas. Attendees will learn practical solutions, share perspectives, and meet new industry and marketplace colleagues. More info at



Jay Sharma

Healthcare Analyst at CHI








Joseph Gaspero is the CEO and Co-Founder of CHI. He is a healthcare executive, strategist, and researcher. He co-founded CHI in 2009 to be an independent, objective, and interdisciplinary research and education institute for healthcare. Joseph leads CHI’s research and education initiatives focusing on including patient-driven healthcare, patient engagement, clinical trials, drug pricing, and other pressing healthcare issues. He sets and executes CHI’s strategy, devises marketing tactics, leads fundraising efforts, and manages CHI’s Management team. Joseph is passionate and committed to making healthcare and our world a better place. His leadership stems from a wide array of experiences, including founding and operating several non-profit and for-profit organizations, serving in the U.S. Air Force in support of 2 foreign wars, and deriving expertise from time spent in industries such as healthcare, financial services, and marketing. Joseph’s skills include strategy, management, entrepreneurship, healthcare, clinical trials, diversity & inclusion, life sciences, research, marketing, and finance. He has lived in six countries, traveled to over 30 more, and speaks 3 languages, all which help him view business strategy through the prism of a global, interconnected 21st century. Joseph has a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. When he’s not immersed in his work at CHI, he spends his time snowboarding backcountry, skydiving, mountain biking, volunteering, engaging in MMA, and rock climbing.