Prevalence of diabetes in Mexican Americans. Relationship to percent of gene pool derived from native American sources

L. I. Gardner, M. P. Stern, S. M. Haffner, S. P. Gaskill, H. P. Hazuda, J. H. Relethford, C. W. Eifler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


We have estimated the prevalence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) in Mexican Americans and Anglos in three San Antonio neighborhoods. The age-adjusted NIDDM rates (both sexes pooled) for Mexican Americans were 14.5%, 10%, and 5% for residents of a low-income barrio, a middle-income transitional neighborhood, and a high-income suburb, respectively. In Mexican American women, though not in men, obesity also declined from barrio to surburbs. We have previously shown, however, that, although obesity is an important cause of NIDDM in Mexican Americans, there is a two- to fourfold excess in the rate of NIDDM in this ethnic group over and above that which can be attributed to obesity. We therefore speculated that genetic factors might also contribute to excess NIDDM in the ethnic group. The percent native American admixture of Mexican Americans as estimated from skin color measurements was 46% in the barrio, 27% in the transitional neighborhood, and 18% in the suburbs. The NIDDM rates in Mexican Americans thus paralleled the proportion of native American genes. Furthermore, the San Antonio Mexican American rates were intermediate between the NIDDM rates of 'full-blooded' Pima Indians (49.9%), who presumably have close to 100% native American genes, and the San Antonio Anglo population (3.0%) and the predominantly Anglo HANES II population (3.1%), both of which presumably have few if any native American genes. The association of genetic admixture with NIDDM rates suggests that much of the epidemic of NIDDM in Mexican Americans is confined to that part of the population with a substantial native American heritage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-92
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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