Waist figures play big role in diabetes onset

  • Thu Oct 7th, 2010 10:21pm
  • News

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Although Americans and Brits have similar rates of many diseases, middle-aged and older American men and women have almost twice the rate of diabetes. Americans’ large waists appear to explain much of this difference, according to a new study.

Researchers at Rand Corp. along with British scientists analyzed various risk factors for diabetes and compared these characteristics with diabetes rates in the United States and England. Despite a comparable standard of living, the diabetes rate among American men is 16 percent compared with 11 percent for British men. U.S. women have a rate of 14 percent compared with 7 percent for British women.

The conventional factors related to diabetes risk — age, smoking, socioeconomic status and body mass index — were similar among the Americans and Brits. But the one factor that differed was waist circumference, researchers reported. American men’s waists were, on average, more than 1 inch larger than those of their British peers while U.S. women’s waists were almost 2 inches larger.

“Americans carry more fat around their middle sections than the English, and that was the single factor that explained most of the higher rate of diabetes seen in the United States, especially among American women,” James Smith, corporate chair of economics at Rand, said. “Waist size is the missing new risk factor we should be studying.”

Americans may have bigger bellies than the English because of differences in physical activity, diet or exposure to stress. Whatever the cause, many studies have shown that belly fat is more dynamic in producing chemical changes that lead to diabetes.

The study was published online Thursday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.