Why Do Filipinos Have High Rates of Diabetes?

Not-so-fun facts: 

  1. In the United States, 15.8% of Filipino men — as opposed to 6.1% of the overall male population — have type 2 diabetes. 
  2. Filipina women are six times more likely than white women to have type 2 diabetes while controlling for diabetes risk factors. 
  3. Although Filipinos have higher rates of obesity — a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes — compared to the overall U.S. population, even non-obese Filipinos are more likely to acquire type 2 diabetes.

Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates — i.e., white rice —  can raise blood glucose levels and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, qualitative studies have found that Filipinos who reduce white rice intake are socially viewed as rejecting Filipino culture. These findings exemplify how difficult it is for Filipinos to make the necessary dietary changes to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.

A simple way to help keep blood glucose stable is to fill your plate with 50% veggies, 25% rice, and 25% protein.

Source: Fuller-Thomson, E., Roy, A., Chan, K., & Kobayashi, K. (2017). Diabetes among non-obese Filipino Americans: Findings from a large population-based study. Canadian Journal of Public Health / Revue Canadienne De Santé Publique, 108(1), E36-E42.