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Reduce Waist Size to Lower Diabetes Risk

Update Date: Jun 07, 2012 09:00 PM EDT

People with a large waist have a high diabetes risk even when they aren't obese, according to a new study. 

The study found that overweight people who have a large waist, over 40 inches or more for men, over 35 inches or more for a women, have an almost equal risk of developing diabetes within 10 years as an obese individual does.

"Type 2 diabetes is a serious and increasingly common disease. More than a third of the UK adult population is overweight and at increased risk of diabetes, but they are not systematically monitored for this risk. Our findings suggest that if their waist circumference is large, they are just as likely to develop the condition as if they were obese, " said the lead researcher Dr Claudia Langenberg. 

The body mass index (BMI), a measurement of body fat based on height and weight, deterimes if a person is overweight or obese. People with a BMI of 25 - 29.9 are considered overweight, and those who have a BMI over 30 are considered obese. However, BMI can overestimate fat in those with a muscular build like athletes and underestimate body fat in those with less muscle like older people, according to the National Institute of Health.  

Dr Claudia Langenberg and her colleagues studied data of 12,400 people with type 2 diabetes and 16,100 people who did not have the disease in eight European countries. Paying attention to subjects' BMI and waist, the team found a strong link between higher waist size, higher BMI and type 2 diabetes.

Obese women with a large waist were 32 times more likely to develop diabetes than women with low-normal BMI (18.5 to 22.4) and a smaller waist (less than 31 inches). Obese men with a large waist were 22 times more likely than men with a low-normal BMI and a smaller waist (less than 31 inches) to get the disease.

This means that 7 percent of men and 4.4 percent of women who are overweight and have a large waist would get diabetes in 10 years. The stats were similar or even higher for those who are obese.

"We do not suggest replacing BMI as a core health indicator, but our results show that measuring waist size in overweight patients allows doctors to 'zoom in' on this large population group and identify those at highest risk of diabetes. These people can then be offered lifestyle advice, which can reduce their risk of developing the disease," said Langenberg.

The study was published in PLoS Medicine on June 5. 

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