Normal weight people may be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes

by Sarita Sheth on August 10, 2012

higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Over weight and obese people who develop type 2 diabetes tend to live longer than thinner people with the disease creating an unexpected paradox for health professionals.

Researchers from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago looked at data from five earlier studies that tracked people over time to identify risk factors for heart disease.More than 2,600 participants developed type 2 diabetes during the studies and 12% had a normal weight when they were diagnosed. The death rate was 1.5% per year among overweight and obese people, compared to 2.8% per year among normal weight people.

‘It was a little bit unexpected given the close association of diabetes and obesity. Perhaps those individuals are somehow genetically loaded to develop diabetes and have higher mortality. A normal weight person who has diabetes has an extremely high mortality rate,’ said Mercedes Carnethon, professor of preventative medicine who led the research.

She pointed out that this sort of ‘obesity paradox’ had been observed before in chronic diseases such as heart and kidney failure and added that it doesn’t mean gaining weight is a good way to improve your prognosis if you develop diabetes.

She also said that there were factors which couldn’t be taken into account such as how much people smoked, which might explain part of the results, and also some may have been diagnosed with diabetes outside of the studies and been told to slim down by their own doctor before they were seen by the study researchers.

Carnethon said that it’s not clear how to best treat normal weight people with type 2 diabetes, although fitness is important and weight training seems preferable over cardio exercise. Also older people and people of Asian descent are more likely to be normal weight when diagnosed.

She explained that body composition in terms of the ratio of fat to muscle could be important. Muscle is important for controlling blood sugar because it is metabolically active, uses insulin and burns sugar and calories.

She believes that doctors need to take the disorder extra seriously when it’s not accompanied by obesity and has published the full details in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other leading doctors said that the study means that fitness for diabetes patients should be monitored. ‘It is not just the issue of fatness. It is also the issue of fitness, If you are a normal weight you may be at a higher risk from diabetes especially if your fitness status is not so good,’ said Hermes Florez, director of the division of epidemiology and population health sciences at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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