Objectives. To compare the prevalence of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and that of cardiac autonomic neuropathy (CAN) between South Asians and White Caucasians with type 2 diabetes and to explore reasons for observed differences. Methods. A cross-sectional study of casually selected South Asian and White Caucasian adults attending a hospital-based diabetes clinic in the UK. DPN and CAN were assessed using the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument (MNSI) and heart rate variability testing, respectively. Results. Patients (n = 266) were
recruited (47.4% South Asians). DPN was more common in White Caucasians compared to South Asians (54.3% versus 38.1%, p = 0.008). Foot insensitivity as assessed by 10 g monofilament perception was more common in White Caucasians (43.9% versus 23.8%, p = 0.001). After adjustment for confounders, White Caucasians remained twice as likely to have DPN as South Asians, but the impact of ethnicity became nonsignificant after adjusting for adiposity measures or height. No difference in prevalence of standardized CAN test abnormalities was detected between ethnicities. Skin microvascular assessment demonstrated that South Asians had reduced heating flux but preserved acetylcholine response. Conclusions. South Asians with type 2 diabetes have fewer clinical signs of DPN compared to White Caucasians. Differences in adiposity (and its distribution) and height appear to explain these differences.