Current Obesity Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 241–249 | Cite as

Racial/Ethnic Differences in Insulin Resistance and Beta Cell Function: Relationship to Racial Disparities in Type 2 Diabetes among African Americans versus Caucasians

  • Brooke R. Hasson
  • Caroline Apovian
  • Nawfal IstfanEmail author
Obesity Treatment (CM Apovian, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Obesity Treatment


Both biological and sociocultural factors have been implicated in the well-documented racial disparity in incidence and prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) between African Americans (AA) and non-Hispanic whites (NHW). This review examines the extent to which biological differences in glucose metabolism, specifically insulin resistance and beta cell function (BCF), contribute to this disparity. The majority of available data suggests that AA are more insulin resistant and have upregulated BCF compared to NHW. Increasing evidence implicates high insulin secretion as a cause rather than consequence of T2D; therefore, upregulated BCF in AA may specifically confer increased risk of T2D in this cohort. Racial disparities in the metabolic characteristics of T2D have direct implications for the treatment and health consequences of this disease; therefore, future research is needed to determine whether strategies to reduce insulin secretion in AA may prevent or delay T2D and lessen racial health disparities.


Insulin sensitivity Beta cell function Disposition index Glucose metabolism 



Nawfal Istfan reports grants from the American Diabetes Association.

Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Brooke R. Hasson and Nawfal Istfan declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Caroline Apovian reports grants and personal fees from Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc., personal fees from Johnson & Johnson, personal fees from Nutrisystem, Inc., grants and personal fees from GI Dynamics, Inc., personal fees from EnteroMedics, Inc., personal fees from Zafgen Inc., personal fees from Arena Pharmaceuticals, personal fees from Merck & Co., Inc., grants and personal fees from Sanofi-Aventis US LLC, grants and personal fees from Amylin Pharmaceuticals, grants from The Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation, grants from Aspire Bariatrics, Inc., grants and personal fees from Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and grants from Pfizer, Inc.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brooke R. Hasson
    • 1
  • Caroline Apovian
    • 1
  • Nawfal Istfan
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and NutritionBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.BostonUSA

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