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Proc Nutr Soc. 2007 May;66(2):286-98.

CVD risk in South Asians: the importance of defining adiposity and influence of dietary polyunsaturated fat.

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  • 1Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Biosciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 266, Reading RG6 6AP, UK.


The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), CVD and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is known to be higher in populations from the Indian subcontinent compared with the general UK population. While identification of this increased risk is crucial to allow for effective treatment, there is controversy over the applicability of diagnostic criteria, and particularly measures of adiposity in ethnic minorities. Diagnostic cut-offs for BMI and waist circumference have been largely derived from predominantly white Caucasian populations and, therefore, have been inappropriate and not transferable to Asian groups. Many Asian populations, particularly South Asians, have a higher total and central adiposity for a similar body weight compared with matched Caucasians and greater CVD risk associated with a lower BMI. Although the causes of CVD and T2D are multi-factorial, diet is thought to make a substantial contribution to the development of these diseases. Low dietary intakes and tissue levels of long-chain (LC) n-3 PUFA in South Asian populations have been linked to high-risk abnormalities in the MetS. Conversely, increasing the dietary intake of LC n-3 PUFA in South Asians has proved an effective strategy for correcting such abnormalities as dyslipidaemia in the MetS. Appropriate diagnostic criteria that include a modified definition of adiposity must be in place to facilitate the early detection and thus targeted treatment of increased risk in ethnic minorities.

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