Even though they're not overweight, they may still be at risk for developing diabetes, says a University of Pittsburgh study in the February issue of Diabetes Care. An important factor in that risk is where their body fat is stored.
The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is highest among men and women over age 65, but the level of obesity in this group is only 14 percent, compared with 24 percent for people in their 50s.
To better understand this, the researchers studied 2,964 men and women, mean age 73.6. The study group was 58.3 percent white and 48.5 percent male.
Of the people in the study, 51 were classified as having normal glucose tolerance, 21 percent classified as having impaired glucose tolerance and 24 percent as having Type 2 diabetes.
The researchers used CT scans to determine muscle and fat in the thighs and abdomens of the people in the study.
They found that 30 percent of obese men and 34 percent of obese women had Type 2 diabetes. The study also found that proportion of intermuscular fat and visceral abdominal fat was higher in the men and women with Type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance.
Among those with diabetes, 22 percent were normal-weight men and 12 percent were normal-weight women.
Overall, the study found that two-thirds of the men with diabetes were not obese and there was a similar pattern in the women.
That suggests that obesity isn't the only factor that causes diabetes or glucose intolerance in elderly men and women. Fat distribution is also a key determination of those health issues in elderly people, the study authors say.
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