Many studies have linked excessive weight and physical inactivity to type 2 diabetes. With this form of diabetes, the body makes insulin but doesn’t use it properly. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that lets the body use blood sugar. With type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin.
Researchers recently observed that the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes rose sharply over the past few decades. The condition increased more among men than women. A new study found that an increase in body mass index (BMI) may be the biggest risk factor contributing to diabetes prevalence.
"Maintain a healthy body weight to help prevent diabetes."
"Obesity requires the pancreas to work harder and can cause it to wear out sooner," said David Winter, MD, MSc, MACP, Chief Clinical Officer, President and Chairman of the Board of HealthTexas Provider Network (HTPN), a division of Baylor Health Care System.
"Avoiding excess body weight is the most important thing you can do to forestall or even prevent diabetes," said Dr. Winter, who was not involved in this study.
For this recent investigation, Andy Menke, PhD, senior research analyst at Social & Scientific Systems in Silver Springs, MD, and colleagues reviewed information from several National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The surveys were conducted in waves. NHANES II (1976 to 1980) had 4,343 participants. NHANES III (1988 to 1994) had 7,023 participants. Surveys from 1999 to 2002 had 3,848, from 2003 to 2006 had 3,688 and 2007 to 2010 had 5,030 participants.
The researchers observed that diabetes prevalence almost doubled between 1976 and 1980. It then doubled again from 1999 to 2004.
Men were more likely to get type 2 diabetes than women. Between the periods of 1976 to 1980 and 2007 to 2010, prevalence among men increased from 4.7 percent to 11.2 percent. Women, on the other hand, had an increase of 5.7 percent to 8.7 percent.
Investigators assessed three risk factors that may contribute to type 2 diabetes: age, race/ethnicity and BMI. They found BMI to be the biggest contributor.
“The substantial contribution of BMI to the prevalence of diabetes in both men and women supports ongoing public health efforts to address obesity, including developing effective interventions aimed at reducing obesity,” the authors wrote.
The study authors added, however, that nearly half of the increase in men was not due to a corresponding increase in BMI and remained unexplained.
“[This] gives urgency to research investigating what additional factors may contribute to the faster rise in diabetes in men than in women,” the researchers wrote.
The study was published online Sept. 1 in Annals of Internal Medicine.
A grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases funded the research.