Diabetes Risk Increases with Expanding Waistlines
By Patricia Reaney
VIENNA (Reuters) - If expanding waistlines, tight clothes and declining athletic ability are not incentive enough for baby boomers to watch their weight, Danish scientists may have a more compelling reason.
They have discovered that people who become overweight and obese in middle age more than double their risk of developing diabetes compared to their more weight-conscious contemporaries.
``It is very, very bad for you to gain weight,'' Thorkild Sorensen, of the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, said during an obesity conference.
``It's the increase up to a certain weight that matters. This is the important new message here. The risk (of diabetes) is a little more than two times higher.''
More than 90 percent of people with Type 2, or adult onset, diabetes, are overweight or obese. Health experts estimate that up to 57 percent of diabetes cases are attributable to obesity.
Excess weight is the most common and avoidable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. The illness develops when the body becomes less sensitive to the effects of insulin as weight increases. To compensate, the pancreas produces more insulin which then causes insulin resistance.
Doctors attending the 11th European Congress on Obesity said a five to 10 percent weight loss can reduce the risk of diabetes and other related illnesses such as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, leg ulcers and high cholesterol.
WEIGHT GAIN OVER YEARS IS IMPORTANT
``You don't have to lose 20 to 40 kilograms (44-66 lbs). You just have to lose five to 10 percent of your body weight to improve your insulin sensitivity,'' said Professor Monica Lechleitner, an endocrinologist at the University of Innsbruck, told the congress.
Sorensen and his Danish colleagues examined body mass index (BMI) information on 380,000 men drafted into the Danish army at the age of 19 and followed their weight gain over 30 years.
BMI, which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared, is the standard measure to determine overweight or obesity.
``It's the weight gain over these years that's important,'' said Eva Black, of the Royal Veterinary and Agriculture University in Frederiksberg, who worked on the study.
The researchers compared 192 men who had a BMI of more than 30 and were already considered obese at 19 with 288 men with normal weight. Both groups were given glucose tolerance tests, a standard measure of insulin sensitivity, when they were 49-50 years old.
``Gaining enough weight to increase one's body mass by five BMI units (15 kilos or 33 lbs) can increase the risk of having abnormal glucose tolerance by 250 percent for people who formerly had a healthy weight,'' Black explained.
In addition to being a leading risk factor for diabetes, which affects 135 million people throughout the world and kills 2.8 million each year, obesity also increases the likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, joint problems and certain types of cancer.
More than 2,000 doctors, researchers and health officials attended the four-day conference that looked at the causes, consequences and methods of treating obesity.