Asian Americans are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes even if they’re young and slim.

A growing body of research is showing that Asians are particularly susceptible to type 2 diabetes. They get the disease at a younger age and lower body weight than most other cultures. It is becoming increasingly prevalent in Asians who eat well and exercise regularly; taking their doctors by surprise.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the USA. If undiagnosed or poorly managed, the consequences can be horrific. Blindness, amputations, kidney failure, strokes and heart attacks are common consequences. The problem is the disease is often missed in Asians because they don’t look like the stereotypical type 2 diabetic; they’re often not overweight. This means they are more prone to suffering with diabetic complications and a shortened lifespan.

Here are some interesting statistics: In Los Angeles County, Asian American adults have the lowest obesity incidence of any ethnic group, at 9%. In contrast, 18% of Caucasians and 29% of Latinos and blacks are obese.

“You would think … Asians would have the lowest diabetes rate,” said Dr. Paul Simon, who is chief scientific officer at the L.A. County Department of Public Health. However, the surprising fact is that 10% of Asian Americans in L.A. County are diabetic, compared to only 7% of Caucasians, despite the fact that more Caucasians are overweight.

Being overweight is definitely a big risk factor for becoming a type 2 diabetic, but several other factors come into play. Genetic factors are significant, but so too are nutrient deficiencies. If you are low in vitamin D, magnesium or chromium, your chances of developing diabetes escalate. The composition of your gut bugs (referred to as your microbiome), and the levels of inflammation in your body also affect your risk. Certain medications can raise the risk of diabetes, particularly steroids and some drugs used for depression.

Learn more about diabetes.