Hyperinsulinaemia and obesity in Aborigines of south-eastern Australia, with comparisons from rural and urban Europid populations Academic Article uri icon


  • Diabetes is more common in Aborigines than in other Australian populations, even in groups that have lived in contact with Europids for 150 years. Prevalence data on hyperinsulinaemia and obesity from urbanized south eastern Australian Aborigines are presented with Europid comparisons. Aborigines had higher mean insulin levels than Europids. In females, mean fasting insulin was 15.5 mU/l in Aborigines, compared with 9.5 mU/l in Europids (P < 0.001). The means for males were 15.1 mU/l (Aborigines) and 8.3 (Europids) (P < 0.005). Obesity was more prevalent in Aborigines. In Aboriginal females aged 25-64 years, 41/108 (38%) had BMI > 30.0, compared with 37/208 (18%) Europids (P < 0.001). In males, the difference in the prevalence of obesity in Aborigines (17/69, 25%) and Europids (34/195, 17%) was not statistically significant. Waist-hip ratio was significantly greater among Aboriginal females (mean 0.87 in persons aged 25-64 years) than among Europids (mean 0.81, P < 0.001). In males, the mean ratio in Aborigines and Europids was the same (0.94). Abdominal obesity was most prevalent among Aboriginal females. For females aged 20-49 years, 83/110 (75%) Aborigines had a waist-hip ratio > 0.80, compared with 71/165 (43%) Europids (P < 0.001). Being overweight or obese is perceived with least accuracy by Aboriginal males of the four ethnicity/gender groups. Comparisons with national data suggest a gradient in the prevalence of obesity, lowest in urban groups, more in the country, and higher still among Aborigines, which is in reciprocal order to socio-economic status. In multivariate analyses, the association of BMI with insulin was highly significant. Hyperinsulinaemia in an Aboriginal group after many years of contact with Europids may result from environmental as well as genetic influences. Relative hyperinsulinaemia is not found among those Aborigines who have developed glucose intolerance, which could be explained by earlier pancreatic exhaustion in this group.


publication date

  • May 1993