May the force be with your waistline

Punjabis at higher risk of heart diseases and diabetes, according to a study of Sikhs in Klang Valley


| Jasrinder Kaur Malaysia | 21 Jan 2016 | Asia Samachar |

Satvinder Kaur from USCI University had shared from the floor her findings at a recent forum deliberating the socio-economic and social issues affecting Sikhs in Malaysia oganised by CMSO - PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR
Satvinder Kaur from USCI University had shared from the floor her findings at a recent forum deliberating the socio-economic and social issues affecting Sikhs in Malaysia oganised by CMSO – PHOTO / ASIA SAMACHAR

Punjabis are at a higher risk of contracting heart diseases and diabetes due to obesity among young adults, according to a study by a Malaysian university.

The 2014 study suggested that 40% Punjabis were found to be with Metabolic Syndrome (Mets) risks as they registered three out of five risk factors that could lead to heart diseases and diabetes.

The factors include a certain waist measurement and high blood pressure.

“Mets appeared to be alarmingly high (40%) in this community,” said UCSI University senior lecturer Satvinder Kaur who led the study.

“Lower physical activities was also observed among those with Mets,” she adds.

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Punjabis have been documented to be one of the high risk groups globally to develop Mets, she said in a research paper as a result of the study.

“We also found a staggeringly high percentage of Punjabis with large waistlines, also known as abdominal obesity. This was similar to a study done in the UK among South Asians,” she tells Asia Samachar.

Satvinder noted that obesity was on the rise partly due to a sedentary lifestyle where people do not engage in sufficient physical activity or exercise.

“The rise in obesity among urban children has been raising alarm among health professional,” she added.

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Satvinder’s study involved 280 participants aged 18-65 years in the Klang Valley, a densely populated area surrounding Kuala Lumpur.

The study, entitled ‘Hyperinsulinemia: A metabolic syndrome risk among Malaysian Punjabis in Central Malaysia’, was presented at the Asia Pacific Clinical Conference 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.

“This study involved mainly urban Sikhs. Hence, it may not represent the total Malaysian Punjabi population,” she said.

The five risk factor criteria taken into account for Mets are:

  1. central obesity (waist measurement greater than 90 cm for males and greater than 80 cm for females)
  2. High triglycerides level
  3. Low HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol)
  4. High blood pressure
  5. High blood glucose levels.

From the 40% with Mets, a higher percentage was found in females as compared to males, which was consistent with studies done in India and UK.

Those with these risk factors were also found to be with higher Body Mass Index (BMI), total body fat and visceral fat.

In an earlier study (Faridah et al., 2009) across all communities in Malaysia, Punjabis were found to develop diabetes at 49 years old, which is earlier than other races.

Asked why Punjabis are at a higher risk, Satvinder said that Punjabis have been known to have a genetic predisposition coupled with their choice of diet that is very rich in fats and sugar content.

“This puts us at a higher risk with having both the genetic and food factors contributing to chronic diseases,” she says.

On why the Punjabis develop diabetes at an earlier age of 49 year old, Satvinder said it was not studied in the earlier research as it was not a longitudinal, but merely a retrospective study referring to the hospital records to tabulate the statistics.

Faridah’s study assessed 4,288 diabetics, with Punjabis grouped under the Indian category.

It was mainly on diabetics with foot ulceration problem. It was noted that the Sikhs/Indians were found to develop diabetes and foot ulceration problems at an earlier age as compared to the Malays and Chinese in Malaysia.


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