Race & Diabetes - What the Relationship for Type 1s?

I’ve seen a lot of studies talking about the greater rate of Type 2 diabetes among non-Caucasians. However, I have not seen any studies talking about Type 1 and race. I’m curious to know – for those that feel ok answering this question – what race you are and what type of diabetes you have.


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Hi Christopher:

I pondered the same question after my initial Type 2 Dx, later discovering as you did that non-Caucasians are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes. I also learned that among non-Caucasians, Asians become diabetic at a lower overall body weight and the Japanese move to insulin sooner than other Asians. Lucky me.

After my Dx was revised down to Type 1, I considered the race relationship question again. I admit that I’ve been intrigued by the representation of people just on this board and, if a census were conducted, I would bet that the majority of Type 1 members are of Caucasian descent and, among Type 2s, the majority are non-Caucasian.

I read somewhere (and asked my endo who is Iranian) that no genetic link exists for Type 1 because it’s primarily an autoimmune issue. I guess my family could be proof because I am the only Type 1 – my mother and maternal grandmother (who appear in my profile photo), father, maternal grandfather, and brother are all Type 2s. (As I always tell people – if there’s 99 ways to do it right and one way to do it wrong, guess which one I’m going to find?)


The rates of type 1 diabetes are very high in some countries, for example Finland. I have Finnish ancestors and after I was diagnosed with diabetes, I filled out a government survey for diabetics that specifically asked if I had any Finnish ancestry.

Type 1 from the Netherlands ( caucasian ) , living in Canada since 1963, diagnosed in 1983 .

type 1 : lack of Vit. D on the radar screen ??? less sunshine in Finland and countries north of 49 th paralell ???

I had read a study a couple years back which offered Northern Europe as having a higher rate of Type 1’s. I am a Type 1 and my Ancestors are from this region of the world.

Same with me…I am 1/2 Swedish with LADA.

I am Type 1 and African American. On my paternal side there is lots of Diabetes but don’t know if it was T1 or T2. I’m told grandparents and parent on that side had D.

Yes, type 1 seems to occur at higher rates in Northern Europe. I think there may be a connection with vitamin D deficiency as well.

Am a type 2 am African by birth, got diagnosed about 2 years after I moved to this country, while there are very little data of diabetes prevalence in Africa, I never encountered another diabetic or even know about the disease growing up. My parents are both in the medical field and they too were shocked when they learned that I was.
The prevalence of type 2 in this country favors African Americans and Hispanics while India has the highest diabetes population in the world at 50 million compared to 24 million in the US.
I remember reading about a Baltimore study a couple of months ago which determined that given the same socio-economical factors like Jobs and access to the best medical facilities, and with the same population of whites, blacks and Hispanics that the prevalence of diabetes in this upscale Baltimore community was the same for the whole group over a period of 4 years, which makes me think that Socio-economical and environmental factors more than Race should be the yard stick determinant for diabetes.

I’m 1/4 American Indian and cacusain ( ansorters from Northern England) with some Danish in there somewhere. Type 1 and 2’s on both sides of my family.

I am T1 and my ancestors are coming from the north-east of Germany.

I think T1 has developed in Northern Europe. It is a rare genetical predisposition that is likely to skip generations and needs multiple influences to manifest itself. I do not know the name of the study that indicated that environmental factors may be important for T1. In this study they found out that the likelyhood to develop T1 in Finnland was x (I do not recall the exact figure). In Japan the likelyhood was y (y significantly smaller than x). The interesting part was that y will progress (or converge) towards x if people from Japan move to Finnland. So there must be an environmental factor that causes this adjustment in likelyhood. It is feasible that the absence or reduction of sunlight is the major factor here. The Vitamine D production is related to the exposition to sunlight. There are indicators that Vitamine D deficit may be a factor in the development of T1.

For T2 this is a very different story. The T2 genes are widespread in the population. Some scientists argue that this condition must have been important for the survival of mankind otherwise they would not have spread so far. In my very personal interpretation I would speculate that people with T2 also have a higher insulin production at the beginning. With more insulin you can get more growth out of less fuel (carbs) since insulin is a growth hormone. This condition would make these individuals stronger and less prone in times of crisis. Because of that they have managed to give their genes to the next generation. Today with the high amount of carbs available and the higher life expectancy the negative side effects of this prediposition are becoming more and more evident. Nevertheless it seems that the T2 diabetics can be proud of their important role in the millions of years of human evolution.

Great explanation of genetic risk and utility, Holger:) I too, have ancestors…both sides…from Germany. I suspect most of my genes for autoimmunity come from my paternal line…other autoimmune diseases there also. Would be interesting to have more information from families of T1’s…I am the only T1 in our family and have documented low Vit D levels…I wonder about my siblings?? who did not develop T1. I know there is a lot of info on genes and disease available from the Iceland data base and we know a bit about the link between starvation periods in grandparents of T1s. All points to genetic risk and environmental epigenetic effects.

I have heard a tale (this is not science but people thinking out loud):

It says that T1 developed in the glacial period. This long lasting period changed the landscape and humans were forced to move further und further away from the north. Starvation and hunger followed and sometimes the survival of the tribe was balancing on a knife’s edge. Only the sharp minded and strong individual could survive. But how to fuel brain and muscles with so little carbs available? How to stop the competition of the brain and muscles with the rest of the body? The answer was simple: force the body to consume just fat by attacking the insulin producing cells. Prefer short time survival over life expectancy. Lead the tribe out of harm’s way and fulfill your fate.

To good to be true, isn’t it?

I am type 1 diabetic and African- American. I was the first type 1 diagnosed in my family 42 years ago.Type 2 diabetes is very common on my biological father’s side of the family; although, as of 2010, I also have a second cousin who is type 1 , and a first cousin who is LAD,. There were several cousins, aunts and uncles who died of complications of type 2 diabetes, all also on my father’s side. No one on my mother’s side of the family has experienced diabetes of any type.
I have met African -American kids with type one diabetes in public schools in my work as a travelling speech pathologist, but have met very few adult type ones of African descent, except on diabetes websites like this one ( Shout out to Poor Diabetic and Betty J, for two)

Type 2 diabetes appears almost pandemic in many sectors of the African-American community. When around church and social groups of African -American men and women in my age range ( I am 55), I will dare say that 15 to 25% have Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, from my experience. I have heard of studies that report this increased incidence among African-American and Hispanic popluations in the United States.

A few years ago,Dr. Kwame Osei, an endocrinologist here in Columbus At OSU, was studying the increased incidence of Type 2 in African-Americans, most of whom are of West AFrican descent ( ancestry); I think he compared these rates to those found in Ghana and other countries in West Africa, and found a much lower incidence in West Africa, though there is a common genetic ancestry… I will have to research his studies more closely to see if I have reported this info just right, but I think that is what he found.

God Bless,

My ancestors came from England and Austria. English on both sides and the German/Austrian on my father’s side. We grew up in upstate NY and myself and my older brother are T1. Myself diagnosed in ‘84 at age 12 and my brother in 90’ at age 25. My maternal grandmother was insulin dependent but I believe she was diagnosed at an older age and there is T2 on my father’s side. Hope this helps those of you analytical enough to get some answers and interesting info for the rest of us!

Patricia and others have mentioned Vit D deficiency. As a child and even as an adult I’ve always disliked Milk. My mother would sit with me to make me drink milk. She also would in the wintertime sit me on a bench near a window to get some sunshine in the winter. As an older adult I now have osteoporasis.

Betty J ,

Maybe someone is willing to start a discussion on Osteoporosis and Diabetes??..I have osteoporosis as well ; my Diabetes Specialist suggested to have this checked out a few years ago
( well into my menopause ) …and osteopenia in left hip .Diabetes related she said …not only type 1 women , type 2 's as well …and I always loved milk .

Caucasian, T1… no family history of diabetes, though my maternal grandma has T2.
We’re very Scandinavian/European.

I’m T1 and of northern European descent (Polish, Irish, French). My great uncle had T1 and he was from the French side. There is some T2 on the Polish side. I’ve read that T1 is most common in northern, isolated societies, like Finland, but also on islands, like Puerto Rico and Sardinia (but not Japan).
If you take a look at the language choices on the Medtronic pump, you can see which countries have a large enough “market” for insulin pumps. How often do you see Finnish, Slovak, Danish and Czech as language options, but not Chinese or Japanese?

I remember when I was first diagnosed with T1 nearly 20 years ago, my doctor told me that T1 was diagnosed more frequently in colder climates, which would also support the Northern Europe theory. More recently my endocrinologist traveled to China where he presented at a conference for doctors there. I have two adopted daughters form there and continue to work in orphanages there, so have always been curious about T1 rates in Chinese children. I have been wanting to find a way to work with T1 children there, but he told me that the rates are extremely low there. I know that with more introduction into western ways, sadly they are seeing an increase in T2 there.