Despite having a lower body weight, Asian Americans are more likely than Caucasians to have diabetes. Diabetes is a rapidly growing health challenge among Asians and Pacific Islanders who have immigrated to the United States, affecting about 10 percent of Asian Americans; about 90 to 95 percent of Asians with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. The higher rate of type 2 diabetes in Asian descents results from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.
Interestingly, the rate of diabetes in Chinese Americans is notably higher than the rate in the Chinese population living in rural China. Likewise, studies show that rates of diabetes are higher in Japanese Americans living in the U.S. compared to Japanese living in Japan, pointing to environment as an important contributing factor. On the other hand, second and third generation Japanese Americans, who are well acculturated in the mainstream American lifestyle, still have higher diabetes rates compared with Caucasians, suggesting genetics to also be an important factor.