Is Canada a Breeding Ground for Diabetes in Immigrants?

Up to one-third of South Asian women living in Canada have diabetes during their pregnancy.


Canada has the second highest diabetes rates among 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-OECD, trailing New Zealand by a slight margin.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports that more than three million Canadians are diabetics. While this is already a serious health concern for one of the wealthiest nations of the world, the statistics on diabetes in its immigrants are even scarier.

A recently published article revealed that female South Asian immigrants are far more likely to develop a type of diabetes during pregnancy, which is known as gestational diabetes (GD). Most notably, the researchers found that Ontario had the highest number of pregnant South Asian women with GD.

How Poor Diet and Obesity are Fueling Gestational Diabetes in Canada?

One of the key findings of the study is that the risk of GD was significantly higher among women who were obese or overweight before their pregnancy.

Moreover, a diet rich in meat, rice, and fried foods, and low in raw or cooked vegetables was associated with a higher risk of GD. In fact, the poor diet could boost the risk by a little less than 13%.

Conversely, when the participants replaced the unhealthy foods with vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread, the risk went down by up to 13%.

Talking about the impact of obesity, the researchers recommend South Asian women to keep their pre-pregnancy BMI (Body Mass Index) below 23. Doing so could slash the risk of gestational diabetes by approximately 33%.

Note that a BMI score of 23-25 is often considered normal for white women, but the same BMI range could mean an impending health issue for South Asian women.

The Bottom Line

Since diabetes including GD is increasing at an alarming rate in Canada, there is an urgent need to control the two major modifiable risk factors, obesity, and poor diet.

  1. CMAJ Open. URL Link. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  2. Canadian Institute for Health Information. URL Link. Retrieved October 17, 2017.



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