Overweight Wives Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Risk in Husbands

A new study has found that middle-aged men who have heavy or obese wives are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The paper was presented at the recent annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

The researchers looked at data collected from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, or ELSA, which is a collection of data gathered over a period of 14 years on the health, social well-being, and economic situation of English people aged 50 and above. They found that men in their late 50s and 60s who had overweight wives were not only more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, they were also more likely to be overweight themselves. The researchers could only speculate on why this was so, but one conclusion was readily apparent — during the period in which the data was collected, it was likely that the women in the household were the ones who were more responsible — or entirely responsible — for the everyday diet.

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Usually, when clinicians study factors that contribute to Type 2 diabetes, they look at family history and the patient’s relatives. This makes sense because it is known that Type 2 diabetes has a genetic factor. For example, if both your parents have Type 2 diabetes, you have a 50% chance of also developing it. The value of this new study is that it suggests that physicians might want to look outside the circle of relatives for factors that might contribute to a person’s diabetes. According to Daniel P. Witte, MD, senior author of the study, “…we sometimes forget the patient’s social network, and I think this is a reminder that we should pay close attention to the home environment.”

Want to learn more about family and Type 2 diabetes? Read “Type 2 Diabetes and a Healthy Family Lifestyle” and “Reducing Diabetes Risks for the Whole Family.”