Joslin talk gives the ‘skinny’ on Asian American diabetes

The Joslin Diabetes Center hosted the first Lawrence and Evelyn Wing Family Lectureship on Diabetes on March 1.

The lecture series was established in memory of Lawrence “Larry” and Evelyn Wing, founders of the Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) and key members of the Joslin family for more than 40 years. Larry was a Joslin patient as well as a member of Joslin’s board of directors for many years and Evelyn was a fixture at the AADI’s signature fundraising event, “A Taste of Ginger.” Their children hope the series will enable the memory and legacy of their parents to live on, for the AADI to flourish.

“The Wing family has supported Joslin’s initiatives to improve diabetes care in the Asian-American community for more than 40 years which is especially important as diabetes is occurring at a much higher rate in that population compared to others,” said Dr. George King, chief scientific officer at Joslin. “Dr. Maria Rosario G. Araneta, who will give the inaugural lecture, is a national leader in the area of health and diabetes among Asian Americans and, along with Joslin researchers, is spearheading a national awareness campaign to screen for diabetes in the Asian-American communities at a lower body mass index (BMI).”

The inaugural lecture, “The ‘Skinny’ on Type 2 Diabetes among Asian-Americans: Revised screening guidelines and the UCSD Filipino Health Study,” was presented by Maria Rosario “Happy” G. Araneta, professor of epidemiology at the University of California San Diego.

Araneta co-authored the American Diabetes Association (ADA) position statement to revise diabetes screening guidelines among Asian Americans with Dr. William Hsu, medical director of the Asian Clinic at Joslin Diabetes Center. She and was appointed to the NIH Advisory Council for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She also serves as principal investigator of the UCSD Filipino Health Study, the oldest and largest clinical study of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis among Filipino men and women.

Araneta said there had been no national study focusing on Asian Americans and diabetes. However, Asia is becoming the diabetes capital of the world.

“By 2065, Asians will be the largest immigrant population in the country,” she said. “It’s time we start to understand why so many Asian Americans are suffering with diabetes.”

She said Asian American patients are often not diagnosed with diabetes until it becomes a dire situation. She says this is because Asian American often appear thin compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

“Doctors will overlook checking for diabetes if a patient is skinny,” she said. “However, our study shows that many Asian Americans have high BMIs.”

The incidence of diabetes at a lower BMI affects Asian Americans who have diabetes, Araneta said. She added more funding is needed to study this issue.

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About Sara Brown

Sara Brown is the Sampan health editor.
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