Rates of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus have risen sharply in recent years among blacks in the U.S. and the U.K. Increases in risk have likewise been observed in the island nations of the Caribbean and in urban West Africa. To date, however, no systematic comparison of the geographic variation of NIDDM among black populations has been undertaken.
In the course of an international collaborative study on cardiovascular disease, we used a standardized protocol to determine the rates of NIDDM and associated risk factors in populations of the African diaspora. Representative samples were drawn from sites in Nigeria, St. Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica, the United States, and the United Kingdom. A total of 4,823 individuals aged 25–74 years were recruited, all sites combined.
In sharp contrast to a prevalence of 2% in Nigeria, age-adjusted prevalences of self-reported NIDDM were 9% in the Caribbean and 11% in the U.S. and the U.K. Mean BMI ranged from 22 kg/m2 among men in West Africa to 31 kg/m2 in women in the U.S. Disease prevalence across sites was essentially collinear with obesity, pointing to site differences in the balance between energy intake and expenditure as the primary determinant of differential NIDDM risk among these populations.
In ethnic groups sharing a common genetic ancestry, these comparative data demonstrate the determining influence of changes in living conditions on the population risk of NIDDM.