Fat Around the Belly & Diabetes

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If you've recently moved up a waist size in your pants, you might take pause and evaluate your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Though a multitude of factors such as genetic predisposition and environmental triggers can influence development of type 2 diabetes, carrying excess body weight has long been associated with increased risk. In 2007, the Association for Weight Management and Obesity Prevention, The Obesity Society, and the American Diabetes Association released a consensus statement identifying waist circumference as a "stronger predictor of diabetes" than BMI. (See Reference 2)

What Is It about Belly Fat?

Type 2 diabetes can be defined as the reduced production of insulin coupled with cell resistance to that insulin. (See Reference 3) Produced by the pancreas, insulin enables cells to take in their energy source from the blood: sugar. Because fat tissue secretes substances that reduce cells' sensitivity to insulin, the more fat tissue present in the body, the more insulin resistance. Fat tissue concentrated in the abdomen is especially associated with insulin resistance. (See Reference 3)

Waist Circumference is More Predictive Than BMI

In preparation for their 2007 consensus statement, the Association for Weight Management and Obesity Prevention, The Obesity Society, and the American Diabetes Association extensively reviewed obesity-related clinical research studies as well as large epidemiological studies. Review of the data revealed that waist circumference, not BMI, was a consistently better predictor of whether a person would develop type 2 diabetes or not. (See Reference 2) Evidence from these studies also supports that waist circumference is a better predictor than blood pressure or even blood sugar levels. (See Reference 2)

Weight Loss Can Reduce Your Risk

The Diabetes Prevention Program, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, set out to identify which therapies were most effective in preventing or delaying onset of type 2 diabetes. The research study found that the participants who were randomly assigned to make lifestyle changes reduced development of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. (See Reference 5) The lifestyle changes identified by the study to be most effective were walking 5 days per week for 30 minutes, lowering intake of fat and calories, and losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight. (See Reference 5)

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