US-Born Latinos More Vulnerable to Chronic Illnesses than Other Ethnicities, AHA Says

A study by the American Heart Association says Latinos are more prone to developing asthma, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and severe obesity

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March 10, 2023 | 03:19 PM

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Bloomberg Línea — Lifestyle and environmental factors may make US-born Latinos more prone to a variety of chronic diseases compared to their compatriots living in their countries of origin, according to a study by the American Heart Association (AHA).

Latinos who were born in the US showed an unfavorable cardio-metabolic blood profile associated with obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and asthma, according to findings presented Thursday at a health conference in Boston.

The findings are considered preliminary until the full results are published and reviewed by other researchers.

The study was based on an analysis of 7,119 participants, making it the largest and most representative study of the Latino community.

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The metabolic profile of the individuals was analyzed, and among the measurable variables are the identification of biomarkers in the blood and other body fluids, which reflect how healthy a person is, as well as the probability of the emergence of chronic conditions.

The results

The research followed up for six years between the time the participants’ blood was collected and the time the diseases developed.

“The longer foreign-born Latinos live in the US, the more likely they are to develop diseases that may be related to diet, lifestyle and environmental factors,” said study co-author Yang Li, a researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.


US-born Hispanics had higher levels of metabolites associated with a 22% higher risk of diabetes; 16% higher risk of severe obesity; 15% higher risk of chronic kidney disease; and 42% higher risk of asthma.

Conversely, foreign-born Hispanics had values corresponding to lower risks of these diseases.

Diseases such as diabetes and obesity contribute to the development of cardiac pathologies that today are the leading cause of death in the US.

The data takes on greater importance if one considers that today more than 40% of Hispanic adults in the US experience obesity, according to the AHA, and almost 12% of Hispanic adults were diagnosed with diabetes as of 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Researchers now have to further analyze how the “culturization” of Hispanics arriving in the country and those born there changes their health conditions. From their preliminary conclusions, it appears that a more Westernized diet, that is, a much more processed diet, could be the cause of the metabolic change and its consequences.

“The interesting thing about this area of work is that it helps us understand how the human body manifests changes in the social environment and changes in nutrition, changes in stress, differences in social experiences between people who stay in their countries of origin compared to those in the US, and between generations,” said Dr. Monik Jimenez, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

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