Glucose tolerance in Papua New Guinea: Ethnic differences, association with environmental and behavioural factors and the possible emergence of glucose intolerance in a highland community

H. King, C. Finch, A. Collins, G. Koki, L. F. King, P. Heywood, P. Zimmet

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That Melanesians of non-Austronesian genetic ancestry may be relatively resistant to glucose intolerance was supported by the results of a study of two semitraditional non-Austronesian villages in the Papua New Guinean highlands in 1983, in which an absence of diabetes and a high degree of glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity were observed. The second of this series of surveys was conducted in 1985 in three non-traditional communities: a periurban, non-Austronesian village in the highlands, and rural and periurban Austronesian villages in coastal locations. Although an absence of diabetes was demonstrated once again in the highlanders, these periurban subjects showed an unexpectedly high insulin response which may be a precursor of glucose intolerance. The notion that highland communities that are living in non-traditional circumstances in Papua New Guinea presently are in 'metabolic transition' towards diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, if correct, is of importance to the public health of the nation. In the periurban, coastal-dwelling Austronesians, diabetes with severe hyperglycaemia was demonstrated, and there was some evidence of a secular trend towards increasing glucose intolerance. The two-hour plasma glucose concentrations were shown to be associated with obesity, modernity and Seventh-Day Adventist religious persuasion. However, important and unexplained differences in glucose tolerance remained between rural and periurban coastal dwellers after taking these factors into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-210
Number of pages7
JournalThe Medical Journal of Australia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

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