The impact of socioeconomic status on cardiovascular risk factors in African-Americans at high risk for type II diabetes. Implications for syndrome X

T R Gaillard, D P Schuster, B M Bossetti, P A Green, K Osei
Diabetes Care 1997, 20 (5): 745-52

OBJECTIVE: The rate of type II diabetes in African-Americans is reaching epidemic proportions. African-Americans with type II diabetes suffer from more cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) associated with diabetes than the general population. Lower socioeconomic status (SES) and family history are often cited as contributory factors to the premature development of diabetes and CVDs in the general population. However, we are not aware of any study that has examined the relationships between SES and CVD risk factors (i.e., syndrome X) in a genetically enriched African-American population at high risk for type II diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We studied 200 healthy first-degree relatives of African-American patients with type II diabetes (age 25-65 years, mean 42.5 +/- 8.4 years; 42 men, 158 women). Standard oral glucose tolerance test, metabolic, and anthropometric parameters, as well as questionnaires on SES, demographic characteristics, and physical activity, were obtained for each subject. SES was divided into quartiles based on annual income. To assess the impact of insulin on CVD risk, we examined clinical characteristics and metabolic parameters according to quartiles of fasting insulin concentrations.

RESULTS: Clinical characteristics, including mean age, BMI, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), percentage body fat and lean body mass, and blood pressure were not statistically different among SES quartiles. There were no significant differences in any of the metabolic, blood pressure, lipid and lipoprotein, or anthropometric parameters among SES quartiles. When examined by insulin quartile, BMI, WHR, and body fat content tended to be greatest in the fourth quartile. Similarly, fasting and postprandial serum C-peptide and glucose levels were significantly higher in the fourth quartile. We observed greater levels of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and triglycerides and lower levels of HDL cholesterol in the fourth compared with the first through third insulin quartiles. Serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were not associated with increasing insulin concentration assessed by quartiles. We found similar systolic and diastolic blood pressure, irrespective of insulin quartiles. We found relationships between fasting insulin and systolic blood pressure (r = 0.181, P < 0.05) and triglycerides (r = 0.247, P < 0.01), VLDL cholesterol (r = 0.237, P < 0.01), WHR (r = 0.268, P < 0.005), BMI (r = 0.308, P < 0.001), and percentage of body fat (r = 0.237, P < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrates no SES/income effect on CVD risk factors or syndrome X in African-Americans at high risk for type II diabetes. Clustering of several components of syndrome X was seen in individuals in the highest quartiles compared with the lowest quartiles of insulin in our high-risk African-American population. We conclude that the well-established conventional risk factors for CVD in genetically enriched African-Americans are found only in individuals with the highest insulin levels, independent of SES.

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