Skip to main content

African-Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes more likely to develop kidney disease

New research confirms for the first time that ethnicity is a risk factor for developing kidney disease in people with type 1 diabetes.
JDRF logo placeholder for author profile picture
Kate Lawton 1 September 2022

Kidneys

Ethnicity as a risk factor in developing kidney disease

New research confirms for the first time that ethnicity is a risk factor for developing kidney disease in people with type 1 diabetes.

The study is one of the largest of its type and is published today in Diabetes Care by researchers from King’s College London. The findings also show people of African-Caribbean heritage and living with diabetes have nearly a 60% greater risk of advanced kidney disease.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that can cause symptoms early in life. Type 2 diabetes is often lifestyle-related and can develop over time. An estimated 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, with 400,000 people living with the condition in the UK. Kidney disease affects nearly 30-40% of people with diabetes, regardless of type.

While it is known that ethnicity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, there is little understanding of whether ethnicity is a risk factor for kidney complications of type 1 diabetes. Most previous studies looking at risk factors for kidney disease have been in less diverse or predominantly Caucasian cohorts.

The King’s College London study

Researchers from King’s College London looked at more than 5,000 people with type 1 diabetes. All people in this cohort had good kidney function and 13% were African-Caribbean. They observed after eight years of follow-up that 260 people had a decline of more than 50% of kidney function and developed stage 4 kidney disease, which is an indicator of severe and advanced kidney disease. Stage 5 is kidney failure when people often need a kidney transplant or dialysis to live.

Findings show that this increased risk for African-Caribbean people is independent of other established risk factors for kidney disease such as blood pressure and glucose control.

Lead author Dr Janaka Karalliedde, from King’s College London, said: “Diabetes-related kidney failure is devastating for people affected and their families. This is the first study in type 1 diabetes to describe the impact of ethnicity on kidney function loss. We observed that African-Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes are at nearly 60% higher risk of losing more than half of their kidney function and that this loss also occurs faster. Further studies are needed to study and understand the exact reasons for this increased risk of kidney disease in African-Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes.”

Hilary Nathan, Director of Policy and Communications at JDRF UK: “This is important research, showing for the first time that people of African-Caribbean heritage have a far higher risk of developing kidney disease because of type 1 diabetes. This research area needs greater funding and focus to help form future approaches to genuinely personalised medicine, so that people from African-Caribbean backgrounds with type 1 diabetes do not have to face undue fear or consequences of traumatic kidney function loss. The study was supported by a research grant from Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital Charity.”

A patient’s view

Daniel Newman, 36, from London, lives with type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2013. He said: “It was difficult to manage the disease once my kidney function dropped to 20% in early 2017. I would dread seeing my consultant because I knew if my function dropped it was one step closer to needing dialysis or a transplant. I knew I would have a longer wait for a transplant because I am from an African-Caribbean background. Luckily, I received a kidney transplant from a relative in 2018, however I was just weeks away from needing dialysis. This study has answered a lot of questions I had about why I developed the disease.”

Related news

Read more
A photo of a room full of people sat at chairs facing presenters and screens.
Complications research
13 February 2024

Diabetes and kidney research charities team up to tackle diabetic kidney disease

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease in the UK, so we've joined forces with Diabetes UK, and Kidney Research UK to identify the research gaps and care needs in the field.

Read more
Dr Ify Mordi, lead type 1 diabetes researcher
Clinical trials
25 October 2023

JDRF award £1.5 million grant to University of Dundee for type 1 diabetes clinical trial

The new JDRF-funded clinical trial called SOPHIST will test a drug to help people with type 1 diabetes and heart failure.

Read more
A hand holding a plastic model of a kidney
Complications
13 October 2023

JDRF commits £1.3 million to investigate medication with the potential to delay kidney complications

Thanks to JDRF supporters, we’ve been able to award a £1.3 million grant to King’s College London (KCL) and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen to examine how existing drugs, known as SGLT inhibitors, could delay the progression of kidney disease in people living with type 1 diabetes.

Read more
African Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes are more at risk of sight loss and diabetic retinopathy
Complications
18 April 2023

African Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes are more at risk of sight loss

New research from Kings College London found that African Caribbean people with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to sight loss.