Waist Size Signals Diabetes Risk

Type 2 diabetes risk high in women with large waist circumference

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The ability to predict diabetes is key to preventing the disease. But some of the tests that predict diabetes can be expensive.

Measuring waist size may be a cheap and easy way to identify people at risk of diabetes.

People with a large waist circumference may have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. A large waist circumference was especially associated with diabetes in women.

"Exercise often and eat healthy to prevent diabetes."

Obesity is the main cause of diabetes worldwide. Yet diabetes often develops in people who are overweight but not obese. While diet and exercise can prevent diabetes, it can be difficult and costly to give every overweight and obese person advice on lifestyle habits.

For this reason, doctors need a way to identify diabetes risk in people at different levels of BMI, or body mass index - a measure of body fat using height and weight.

In a recent study, Claudia Langenberg, MD, PhD, of the Institute of Metabolic Science at Addenbrooke's Hospital in the United Kingdom, and colleagues wanted to see if waist circumference could be used to identify people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

According to the authors, BMI does not tell doctors anything about body fat distribution, which can be an important sign of diabetes risk.

Dr. Langenberg and her fellow researchers thought that waist circumference could be useful in determining diabetes risk in people at different levels of BMI.

Their findings show that both BMI and waist circumference were associated with type 2 diabetes risk. Waist circumference was a stronger sign of diabetes risk in women than in men.

Generally, obese people are considered to have a higher risk of diabetes than overweight people. However, Dr. Langenberg and colleagues found that a group of overweight people with a large waist circumference had a 10-year diabetes risk that was similar to that of a group of obese patients.

"In addition to obese and severely obese individuals at high risk of diabetes, more than a third of the population in the US and UK is overweight," the authors write.

The authors continue to explain that the diabetes risk in these overweight individuals is much less understood, even though their weight may be contributing more than obesity to the burden of diabetes and other health problems related to the disease.

"Our results suggest that current clinical recommendations should onside the introduction of [waist circumference] measurement amongst all overweight men and women to identify high-risk individuals for early lifestyle intervention," the authors conclude.

By identifying the highest risk individuals, doctors and healthcare professionals can direct their limited resources to these individuals.

The study consisted of 12,403 cases of type 2 diabetes.

The research was funded by a variety of sources, including the Danish Cancer Society and the Health Research Fund of the Spanish Ministry of Health.

The study is published in PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 7, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012