Repository logo

Ancient origins of low lean mass among South Asians and implications for modern type 2 diabetes susceptibility

Published version

Change log


Mushrif-Tripathy, Veena  ORCID logo
Wells, Jonathan C. K. 
Stock, Jay T. 


Abstract: Living South Asians have low lean tissue mass relative to height, which contributes to their elevated type 2 diabetes susceptibility, particularly when accompanied by obesity. While ongoing lifestyle transitions account for rising obesity, the origins of low lean mass remain unclear. We analysed proxies for lean mass and stature among South Asian skeletons spanning the last 11,000 years (n = 197) to investigate the origins of South Asian low lean mass. Compared with a worldwide sample (n = 2,003), South Asian skeletons indicate low lean mass. Stature-adjusted lean mass increased significantly over time in South Asia, but to a very minor extent (0.04 z-score units per 1,000 years, adjusted R2 = 0.01). In contrast stature decreased sharply when agriculture was adopted. Our results indicate that low lean mass has characterised South Asians since at least the early Holocene and may represent long-term climatic adaptation or neutral variation. This phenotype is therefore unlikely to change extensively in the short term, so other strategies to address increasing non-communicable disease rates must be pursued.



Article, /631/181/19/2471, /692/699/2743/137/773, article

Journal Title

Scientific Reports

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Nature Publishing Group UK