Risk Factors for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Young Australian Aborigines: A 5-year follow-up study

  1. Michael Gracey, MD, PHD
  1. Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco
  2. Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of California Berkeley, California
  3. Health Department of Western Australia, Derby, Western Australia
  4. Division of Human Nutrition, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Adelaide, South Australia
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Barry Braun, PhD, Departments of Endocrinology, Geriatrics and Metabolism, Stanford University School of Medicine, GRECC 2B1, Veterans Administration Health Care System, 3801 Miranda Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94304


OBJECTIVE To test the hypothesis that hyperinsulinemia and glucose intolerance are present at an early age in australian aborigines and can be used to predict the eventual development of NIDDM.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Baseline anthropometric, pubertal stage, and blood pressure data were collected for 100 Australian aboriginal children and adolescents in 1989. Plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, C-peptide, triglycerides, and LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol were measured before and during an oral glucose tolerance test. All measurements were repeated in 74 individuals from the original study population in 1994. Results were compared among hyperinsulinemic and normoinsulinemic subjects, and subjects with normal or abnormal glucose tolerance.

RESULTS The percentage of subjects who were overweight increased from 2.7% at baseline to 17.6% 5 years later. At a mean age of 18.5 years, 8.1% of the population had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 2.7% had diabetes, and 21.6% had elevated cholesterol concentrations in plasma. Dyslipidemia was particularly prevalent among male subjects in the population: 34.4% had elevated plasma cholesterol and 21.9% had elevated LDL cholesterol values. Of the eight subjects who had diabetes or IGT in 1994, four were classified as hyperinsulinemic in 1989 and four were not.

CONCLUSIONS The major finding of this study is the high prevalence of risk factors for NIDDM and cardiovascular disease in this population of aboriginal children and adolescents. Abnormalities of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism were well established by late in the second decade of life. Although many subjects had high insulin levels and there was evidence of insulin resistance in the population, hyperinsulinemia did not predict the development of abnormal glucose tolerance 5 years later.

  • Received July 7, 1995.
  • Accepted November 30, 1995.
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