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Trinidadians of South Asian origin have a high prevalence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes compared to Trinidadians of African origin. The degree to which these differences are related to genetic and/or environmental factors is unclear. To determine whether there might be a genetic basis for this difference in prevalence of deleterious phenotypes we examined allele frequencies for candidate genes in atherosclerosis and diabetes. We genotyped 81 consecutive neonates of African origin and 103 consecutive neonates of South Asian origin. We evaluated common polymorphisms in 11 candidate genes for atherosclerosis and diabetes. We found differences between the two subpopulations in the allele frequencies of several candidate genes, including APOE, LIPC, APOC3, PON1, PON2, and PPP1R3. However, the differences in the allele frequencies were not all consistent with the pattern of CHD expression between these two ethnic groups in adulthood. Thus, differences in genetic architecture alone may not explain the wide disparities in disease prevalence between these two subpopulations. It is very likely that environmental factors, or unmeasured genetic factors, influence the genetic susceptibility to disease in these subpopulations.