Diabetes Among The Pima Indians: An Exploratory Analysis

In this post we will explore the Pima Indian dataset from the UCI repository. This post will aim to showcase different ways of thinking of your data. Most novices to data science would rush into data preprocessing and not explore the data properly. The data cleaning stage can be subjective at times and here I offer my own view and opinions on this dataset

Asel Mendis https://www.linkedin.com/in/asel-mendis-a620399b/ (Medium)https://medium.com/@aselmendis

Table of Contents

See the article Published on Medium


The data used in the current project contains a number of diagnostic measures of type 2 diabetes in women of the Pima Indian heritage, and whether or not the individual has type 2 diabetes. The dataset was obtained from Kaggle at (https://www.kaggle.com/uciml/pima-indians-diabetes-database). There is a total of 768 observations and 9 variables. The variables in the dataset are:





Observations: 768
Variables: 9
$ Pregnancies              <int> 6, 1, 8, 1, 0, 5, 3, 10, 2, 8, 4...
$ Glucose                  <int> 148, 85, 183, 89, 137, 116, 78, ...
$ BloodPressure            <int> 72, 66, 64, 66, 40, 74, 50, 0, 7...
$ SkinThickness            <int> 35, 29, 0, 23, 35, 0, 32, 0, 45,...
$ Insulin                  <int> 0, 0, 0, 94, 168, 0, 88, 0, 543,...
$ BMI                      <dbl> 33.6, 26.6, 23.3, 28.1, 43.1, 25...
$ DiabetesPedigreeFunction <dbl> 0.627, 0.351, 0.672, 0.167, 2.28...
$ Age                      <int> 50, 31, 32, 21, 33, 30, 26, 29, ...
$ Outcome                  <int> 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0,...

mlr::summarizeColumns(Diabetes) %>% 
  kable(caption="Summary Table of Diabetes") 
Table 1: Summary Table of Diabetes
name type na mean disp median mad min max nlevs
Pregnancies integer 0 3.8450521 3.3695781 3.0000 2.9652000 0.000 17.00 0
Glucose integer 0 120.8945312 31.9726182 117.0000 29.6520000 0.000 199.00 0
BloodPressure integer 0 69.1054688 19.3558072 72.0000 11.8608000 0.000 122.00 0
SkinThickness integer 0 20.5364583 15.9522176 23.0000 17.7912000 0.000 99.00 0
Insulin integer 0 79.7994792 115.2440024 30.5000 45.2193000 0.000 846.00 0
BMI numeric 0 31.9925781 7.8841603 32.0000 6.8199600 0.000 67.10 0
DiabetesPedigreeFunction numeric 0 0.4718763 0.3313286 0.3725 0.2483355 0.078 2.42 0
Age integer 0 33.2408854 11.7602315 29.0000 10.3782000 21.000 81.00 0
Outcome integer 0 0.3489583 0.4769514 0.0000 0.0000000 0.000 1.00 0

Type Conversions


The outcome variable needs to be converted into a categorical variable. It will be ordered to accomodate analysis purposes in the near future.

Diabetes$Outcome <- as.factor(unlist(Diabetes$Outcome))
Diabetes$Outcome <- factor(Diabetes$Outcome, levels=c("1", "0"),
                           labels = c("Positive", "Negative"))

Positive Negative 
     268      500 

We can see that there are almost twice as many people wihtout diabetes than there are with diabetes. While there is no universal cutoff for the number of rows for your target variable, this should suffice.

We just need to make sure that there is enough data for your model to learn how to differentiate between the two.


The following variables:

* Glucose

* BloodPressure

* SkinThickness

* Insulin

* BMI 

need to be converted into numeric variables from its current integer class. These variables have decimal values and its absence could potentially create misleading results and distort specified ranges of risk represented by those medical tests.

Diabetes$Glucose <-  as.numeric(Diabetes$Glucose)
Diabetes$BloodPressure <-  as.numeric(Diabetes$BloodPressure)
Diabetes$SkinThickness <-  as.numeric(Diabetes$SkinThickness)
Diabetes$Insulin <-  as.numeric(Diabetes$Insulin)
Diabetes$BMI <-  as.numeric(Diabetes$BMI)
Diabetes$Age <- as.integer(Diabetes$Age)

Dealing with Missing Values

\({6/9}\) variables in the dataset have a number of zero markers. It appears that after taking the sum of each column and row separately, there are 763 0 values in the dataset. Alarmingly, this represents almost 100% of our observations.

`Column` = colSums(Diabetes==0),
Row = sum(rowSums(Diabetes==0))

             Pregnancies                  Glucose 
                     111                        5 
           BloodPressure            SkinThickness 
                      35                      227 
                 Insulin                      BMI 
                     374                       11 
DiabetesPedigreeFunction                      Age 
                       0                        0 

[1] 763


A value of ‘0’ does not necessarily mean it is a missing value. For example: A woman has a zero record of pregancies because that woman has not been pregnant.

This is one example on how careful you have to be when preprocessing your data for missing values. Zero does not mean it is missing. However in addition to that point, zero values could create problems when passing it to a machine learning model. Techniques like Regression can give you an estimate of the output when the variable is zero. Another method of dealing with zeros could be to bin the variable which will then create a categorical variable.

Diabetes$Pregnancies <- ifelse(Diabetes$Pregnancies==0, "No", "Yes") %>% 

             Pregnancies                  Glucose 
                       0                        5 
           BloodPressure            SkinThickness 
                      35                      227 
                 Insulin                      BMI 
                     374                       11 
DiabetesPedigreeFunction                      Age 
                       0                        0 


 No Yes 
111 657 


50% of the rows in Insulin have 0 values. Lets look at it in a practical sense. There are times when the body produces little to no insulin which is a sign on Type 1 Diabetes. But I doubt this is the case in this instance. Insulin is such an important variable concerning Diabetes, but when a variable is just rife with missing values you have to do something about it. You can just impute the values, but this is medical data and half of the values are missing. It would not be appropriate to just impute the rows with its mean in my opinion. That’s why no matter how important it is, it has to be REMOVED. This is one of those times where you need to make a tough call.

Diabetes$Insulin <- NULL

             Pregnancies                  Glucose 
                       0                        5 
           BloodPressure            SkinThickness 
                      35                      227 
                     BMI DiabetesPedigreeFunction 
                      11                        0 
                     Age                  Outcome 
                       0                        0 

Skin Thickness

The same can be said for SkinThickness. 31% of its rows have 0 as a value. Practically how can a human have 0mm skinfold thickness. This variable is also not giving us much use. Therefore I will remove this variable as well.

Diabetes$SkinThickness <- NULL

             Pregnancies                  Glucose 
                       0                        5 
           BloodPressure                      BMI 
                      35                       11 
DiabetesPedigreeFunction                      Age 
                       0                        0 


BMI can be supplemented with its respective range of obesity criteria. BMI only has 11 0 values so it would not be expected to cause too much trouble. If it was substantially higher, binning would not really solve the problem because the allocated bin may not be its correct one.

Diabetes$BMI <- 
                ifelse(Diabetes$BMI>=19 & 
                         Diabetes$BMI<=25, "Normal", 
                ifelse(Diabetes$BMI>=25 & 
                  Diabetes$BMI<=30, "Overweight","Obese"))) %>% 

list(BMI = summary(Diabetes$BMI))

Underweight      Normal  Overweight       Obese 
         15         108         180         465 

So now I see that Underweight has 15 rows which means there were 15 rows that had a BMI less than 19 and knowing that BMI had 11 zero values, we know that most of the rows are zero. Because it is so little, I am choosing to keep it. Also, we have already removed two variables and I want to retain as much data as possible while making sure it can add value.


With a 2 hour ‘Oral Glucose Tolerance Test’ (OGTT), people are considered to not have diabetes if after 2 hours of administering the test their levels are below 7.8 mmol/L. To categorize the levels of glucose tolerance, we will use the following criteria:

* Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) - <2.2 mmol/L

* Normal/No Diabetes - >=2.2 mmol/L - <=7.8mmol/L

* Prediabetes (Hyperglycemia / High Blood Sugar) - >7.8 mmol/L - <=11.1 mmol/L

* Diabetes - >11.1 mmol/L

Although one of the levels says this person has diabetes, it is not a final diganosis. Other factors will have to be taken to account. To avoid misleads, ‘Diabetes’ in this circumstance REFERS TO THE TEST RESULT ANME AND NOT A FINAL DIAGNOSIS OF TYPE 2 DIABETES’

The unit of measurement for the 2-hour OGTT in this dataset is assumed to be in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). It can be converted to Milimoles per liter (mmol/l) so that we may appply a qualitative test result to the numeric results. Multiplying the current results by 0.0555 will convert them to be measured in mmol/l.

Diabetes$Glucose <- Diabetes$Glucose*0.0555

Diabetes$Glucose <-
    if_else(Diabetes$Glucose>=2.2 & 
    if_else(Diabetes$Glucose>7.8 & 
            "Hyperglycemia","Diabetes"))) %>% 

`Test Result` = summary(Diabetes$Glucose)

$`Test Result`
Hyperglycemia  Hypoglycemia        Normal 
          192             5           571 

It appears that 74% of participants have Normal Glucose levels and 25% have Prediabetes/Hyperglycemia/High Blood Sugar.Only 1% have Hypoglycemia/Low Blood Sugar.

My main concern with Hypoglycemia is that when I take it through a machine learning process, the level may not be present during k-fold cross validation. I cannot say for sure at this point but it is worth noting and keeping in mind for the future.

Blood Pressure

When measuring Blood Pressure, two measures are used:

* Systolic
    - Measures the pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats. 

* Diastolic
    - Measures the pressure in blood vessels when the heart rests between beats. 

In this dataset, only the diastolic blood Pressure is reported. This requires us to proceed with caution.

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blood pressure is measured using systolic and diastolic units. When they are reported we can make the following inferences:


Diabetes$BloodPressure <- NULL

Visualisation of variables

Numeric Variables


function(v) {
   uniqv <- unique(v)
   uniqv[which.max(tabulate(match(v, uniqv)))]
<bytecode: 0x0000000020879328>

I want to find the mode of the numeric variables. I will use the above function for mode as R does not currently have a supported function to calculate mode.


ggplot(Diabetes, aes(y=Age, x=Outcome)) + 
      geom_boxplot() + geom_jitter()+
      theme_bw() +
      xlab("Outcome") + ylab("Age") +
      stat_summary(fun.y=mode, colour="Orange", 
                  geom="point", shape=16, size=5) +
      stat_summary(fun.y=mean, colour="purple", 
                  geom="point", shape=16, size=5) +
      ggtitle(label="Age by Outcome",
              subtitle = "Orange=Most Frequent\nPurple=Average Age") +
      theme(axis.text.x = element_text(face="bold",size=12),
            axis.text.y = element_text(face="bold",size=12),
            title = element_text(face="bold",size=12),
            axis.title = element_text(face="bold",size=12)) +

It seems there is a lot of noise in this variable. There is no clear distinction in age with regards to having diabetes.

Diabetes Pedigree Function

ggplot(Diabetes, aes(y=DiabetesPedigreeFunction, x=Outcome)) + 
      geom_boxplot() + geom_jitter()+
      theme_bw() +
      xlab("Outcome") + ylab("DiabetesPedigreeFunction") +
      stat_summary(fun.y=mode, colour="orange", 
                  geom="point", shape=16, size=5) +
      stat_summary(fun.y=mean, colour="purple", 
                  geom="point", shape=16, size=5) +
      ggtitle(label="Diabetes Pedigree Function by Outcome",
              subtitle = "Orange=Most Frequent\nPurple=Average DPF") +
      theme(axis.text.x = element_text(face="bold",size=12),
            axis.text.y = element_text(face="bold",size=12),
            title = element_text(face="bold",size=12),
            axis.title = element_text(face="bold",size=12)) +

Interestingly, the Diabetes Pedigree Function does not seem to give a clear picture of a diabetic outcome. This is supposed to be a score wherein the higher the score, the more likely you are to have diabetes. This is also a variable with a lot of noise.

Categorical Variables (% of Outcome)


(pregnant <- table(Diabetes$Pregnancies, Diabetes$Outcome,
                          dnn = c("Pregnant", "Outcome")) )

Pregnant Positive Negative
     No        38       73
     Yes      230      427

pregnant %>% prop.table(2) %>% round(2) %>% 
  kable(format = 'html')
Positive Negative
No 0.14 0.15
Yes 0.86 0.85

It seems that having a pregnancy does not necessarily increase your chances of having diabetes as the same proportion of women who had or didn’t have diabetes had at least one pregnancy.


(bmi <- table(Diabetes$BMI, Diabetes$Outcome,
                          dnn = c("BMI", "Outcome"))  )

BMI           Positive Negative
  Underweight        2       13
  Normal             7      101
  Overweight        44      136
  Obese            215      250

bmi %>% prop.table(2)%>% round(2) %>% 
  kable(format = 'html')
Positive Negative
Underweight 0.01 0.03
Normal 0.03 0.20
Overweight 0.16 0.27
Obese 0.80 0.50

Unsurprisingly, 80% of Diabetic women were obese while 16% were overweight. Only 3% were reported to be of normal weight. Among the women that do not have diabetes, 50% were obese, 27% overweight and 20% normal.


(glucose <- table(Diabetes$Glucose, Diabetes$Outcome,
                          dnn = c("Glucose Level", "Outcome")) )

Glucose Level   Positive Negative
  Hyperglycemia      132       60
  Hypoglycemia         2        3
  Normal             134      437

glucose %>% prop.table(2) %>% round(2) %>% 
  kable(format = 'html')
Positive Negative
Hyperglycemia 0.49 0.12
Hypoglycemia 0.01 0.01
Normal 0.50 0.87

49% of women who have diabetes were positive for Hyperglycemia and 50% had normal glucose levels. Surprisingly, the glucose levels do not seem to clearly differentiate between those who are diabetic. Obviously, people with Hyperglycemia are more likely to have diabetes but the magnitude is very low according to the above table.

Unsurprisingly, 87% of women without diabetes had normal glucose levels.

Final Data


 Pregnancies          Glucose             BMI     
 No :111     Hyperglycemia:192   Underweight: 15  
 Yes:657     Hypoglycemia :  5   Normal     :108  
             Normal       :571   Overweight :180  
                                 Obese      :465  
 DiabetesPedigreeFunction      Age            Outcome   
 Min.   :0.0780           Min.   :21.00   Positive:268  
 1st Qu.:0.2437           1st Qu.:24.00   Negative:500  
 Median :0.3725           Median :29.00                 
 Mean   :0.4719           Mean   :33.24                 
 3rd Qu.:0.6262           3rd Qu.:41.00                 
 Max.   :2.4200           Max.   :81.00                 


If you see mistakes or want to suggest changes, please create an issue on the source repository.


Text and figures are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 4.0. Source code is available at https://github.com/aslm123/easydsrp, unless otherwise noted. The figures that have been reused from other sources don't fall under this license and can be recognized by a note in their caption: "Figure from ...".


For attribution, please cite this work as

Mendis (2018, Nov. 6). Easy Data Science with R and Python: Diabetes Among The Pima Indians: An Exploratory Analysis. Retrieved from https://easydsrp.com/posts/2018-11-06-diabetes-among-the-pima-indians-an-exploratory-analysis/

BibTeX citation

  author = {Mendis, Asel},
  title = {Easy Data Science with R and Python: Diabetes Among The Pima Indians: An Exploratory Analysis},
  url = {https://easydsrp.com/posts/2018-11-06-diabetes-among-the-pima-indians-an-exploratory-analysis/},
  year = {2018}