Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Waist circumference may independently predict a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, regardless of whether he or she is obese, according to a new study from researchers in Cambridge, England. There are currently 24 million people in the United States with Type 2 diabetes and another 57 million with prediabetes who are at risk of progressing to Type 2.

Health-care professionals have long used body-mass index (BMI), a measurement of a person’s weight in relation to his height, along with waist circumference to assess Type 2 risk. Obese people (those with a BMI of 30 or more) and nonobese people with a large waist — 35 inches or more in a woman and 40 inches or more in a man — are considered to be at high risk of developing Type 2.

Because BMI gives an indication of overall fat distribution throughout the body, and does not reflect how much fat is in the belly and around the internal organs — visceral fat, or fat around the organs, is a known risk factor for Type 2 — the researchers wanted to determine whether waist circumference alone could be used to help predict a person’s risk for Type 2. They examined data from more than 28,500 people living in Europe who were included in the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study, which looked at lifestyle and other factors and chronic disease.

Approximately 12,400 of the participants had Type 2 diabetes, while roughly 16,100 did not. Comparing waist and BMI measurements, the researchers found that overweight men and women with very large waists have the same diabetes risk as obese people. The link was found to be particularly strong in women.

According to researcher Claudia Langenberg, MD, PhD, “Our results now provide clear evidence that a simple measurement of waist circumference can identify overweight individuals with a large waist, whose risk of future diabetes is equivalent to that of obese people.”

The researchers suggest that using waist circumference measurements in nonobese people can help identify those who are at high risk of developing Type 2, potentially allowing them to receive lifestyle counseling in time to stave off the condition.

For more information, read the article “Waist Size Alone May Predict Diabetes Risk” or see the study in the journal PLoS Medicine. And to learn about some tried-and-true weight loss strategies, click here.


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