Physicians Can Partner with U.S. South Asian Patients by Improving Nutritional Needs 
that May Help Lower Diabetes Risk, Improve Management

Lifestyle changes can play a key role in type 2 diabetes prevention and management, especially when it comes to making healthy eating choices and getting the proper type of nutrition from food. A new study evaluating the diets of South Asians living in the United States suggests that this population may not be meeting the recommended nutritional or energy requirements.  

The study, published in the journal Diabetes and Clinical Research, found that U.S. South Asians with type 2 diabetes consumed fewer calories and less beneficial nutrients than those without type 2 diabetes. With a focus on partnering for health equity as part of this year’s National Minority Health Month, it’s important that you find ways to partner with your South Asian patients on nutrition and a healthy diet to move this community toward its full potential for health. 

A sampling of South Asian health in the U.S.

Study participants included nearly 80 South Asians living in the United States and compared participants’ intake of macro- and micronutrients using an image-assisted dietary intake method. Participants took pictures of all foods and drinks consumed on three days of the week—two weekdays and one weekend day—that represented their usual eating pattern:  

Research results revealed that those with type 2 diabetes consumed less of the following nutrients: 

     Beta-carotene

     Calcium

     Dietary fiber

     Linoleic acid

     Magnesium

     Potassium

     Vitamin A

     Vitamin E

     Zinc 

“We recommend that South Asians with type 2 diabetes include in their diets more yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, fatty fish, and low-fat milk and dairy products,” said Abhimanyu Garg, M.D., senior author of the study.   

“These recommendations may also be helpful to improve their blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels,” he added.  

Opportunities for patient partnerships

Encouraging patients to consume a nutrient-rich diet is one important aspect of diabetes prevention and management, but other efforts, such as screening for the condition, can go a long way as well.  

Screening can be made easy with the quick 1-minute online prediabetes risk test, which also offers lifestyle tips that lower patients’ risk and helps them find a National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at a nearby location.  

In addition, the Prevent Diabetes STAT toolkit, has resources that range from patient handouts that explain the benefits of lifestyle change programs to sample email and phone scripts to help refer patients to a National DPP. 

By enrolling in a DPP, patients at risk for diabetes can learn tips such as: 

     How to eat healthy

     Ways to incorporate physical activity into a busy life

     Stress management techniques

     Goal setting  

Looking ahead to the future

The current study revealed the dietary differences between U.S. South Asians with and without type 2 diabetes and determined the proportion who did not meet nutrient guidelines within each group. In the future, studies could compare the diets of healthy U.S.-based South Asians with those who have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.  

And there’s still more work to be done there too. “We also need to assess blood nutrient levels, daily energy expenditures, stress levels and other lifestyle behaviors in order to do a comprehensive assessment of the factors that contribute to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes among South Asians,” Garg said.  

*As part of ongoing work to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes nationwide, the American Medical Association (AMA) has commenced a multi-state effort to reach more of the estimated 84 million Americans who unknowingly live with prediabetes.  MSSNY has proudly partnered with the AMA to launch this proactive initiative to educate New York State physicians on how to initiate clinical practice change and prevent diabetes in patient population. In addition, MSSNY is working to identify health systems, private and/or group practices who are interested in implementing the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program.