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Big Waist Raises Risk of Diabetes, Analysis Suggests

Higher type 2 disease rates in U.S. versus U.K. may be due to greater levels of mid-section fat

THURSDAY, Oct. 7, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Larger waist size, rather than traditional factors such as obesity, is the major reason why the United States has a higher diabetes rate than England, researchers say.

The new findings offer more evidence that excess fat around the mid-section is a health risk and suggest that studies of type 2 diabetes should focus on waist size along with traditional risk factors, said the American and British researchers.

Diabetes occurs in about 16 percent of American men, 14 percent of American women, and 11 percent and 7 percent of men and women in England, respectively, the study authors noted in a news release from the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.

When the researchers analyzed studies about the health and lifestyles of people in the United States and England, they found no association between higher diabetes rates in the United States and conventional risk factors such as age, smoking, socioeconomic status, or body mass index (the height and weight ratio used to measure overweight and obesity).

But they did find that American men's waists were an average of 3 centimeters (1.5 inches) larger than those of men in England. And American women's waists were an average of 5 centimeters (2 inches) larger than those of women in England.

In addition, women in America were much more likely than women in England to face a higher risk of diabetes because of their waist size (69 percent versus 56 percent), while American men had only a slightly higher waist size-related diabetes risk than their counterparts in England, the study authors found.

"Americans carry more fat around their middle sections than the English, and that was the single factor that explained most of the higher rates of diabetes seen in the United States, especially among American women. Waist size is the missing new risk factor we should be studying," study co-author James P. Smith, corporate chair of economics at the RAND Corp., said in the news release.

The study findings were published online Oct. 7 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about type 2 diabetes risk factors.

SOURCE: RAND Corp., news release, Oct. 7, 2010
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