Ethnic admixture affects diabetes risk in native Hawaiians: the Multiethnic Cohort

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Obesity and diabetes rates are high in Native Hawaiians (NHs) who commonly have mixed ancestries. People of Asian ancestry experience a high risk of type 2 diabetes despite the relatively low body weight. We evaluated the impact of ethnic admixture on diabetes risk among NHs in the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC).


On the basis of self-reports, 11 521 eligible men and women were categorized into NH/white, NH/other, NH alone, NH/Asian and the most common three ancestry admixture, NH/Chinese/white. Cox proportional hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated with the NH/white category as the reference group; covariates included known confounders—that is, body mass index (BMI), dietary and other lifestyle factors.


The NH alone category had the highest proportion of overweight and obese individuals and the NH/Asian category the lowest proportion. During 12 years of follow-up after cohort entry at 56 years, 2072 incident cases were ascertained through questionnaires and health plan linkages. All NH categories had higher HRs than the NH/white category before and after adjustment for BMI. In the fully adjusted models, the NH/Asian category showed the highest risk (HR = 1.45; 95% CI: 1.27-1.65), followed by NH/other (HR = 1.20; 95% CI: 1.03-1.39), NH/Chinese/white (HR = 1.19; 95% CI: 1.04-1.37) and NH alone (HR = 1.19; 95% CI: 1.03-1.37). The elevated risk by Asian admixture was more pronounced in normal weight than overweight/obese individuals.


These findings indicate that Asian admixture in NHs is associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes independent of known risk factors and suggest a role for ethnicity-related genetic factors in the development of this disease.

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