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BMI increases risk of diabetes more than genetics and family history, study finds

Researchers say losing weight is critical for at-risk consumers

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While recent studies have highlighted how consumers’ diets can increase their risk for diabetes, a new study is exploring how a person’s overall body mass index (BMI) can also have an effect on disease risk

According to researchers from the European Society of Cardiology, a higher BMI can increase consumers’ risk of developing diabetes more so than family history of the disease. 

“Because we are born with our genes, it might be possible to pinpoint early in life who has a high chance of developing diabetes during their lifetime,” said researcher Brian Ference. “We conducted this study to find out if combining inherited risk with current body mass index could identify people at the highest risk of developing diabetes. Prevention efforts could then concentrate on these individuals.” 

Identifying risk factors

To better understand consumers’ risk of developing diabetes, the researchers analyzed over 445,000 participants’ data, including their BMIs and other diabetes risk factors, from the U.K. Biobank. The researchers followed up with the participants roughly 10 years later to assess their health outcomes and determine the specific risks associated with developing the health condition. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that consumers’ weight was the biggest contributing factor to developing diabetes. Compared to those with the lowest BMIs, those with the highest BMIs were 11 times more likely to develop diabetes over the course of the study, which was more than any other contributing factor. 

The researchers also learned that the risk for diabetes didn’t increase based on how long participants maintained an elevated BMI.

“This suggests that when people cross a certain BMI threshold, their chances of diabetes go up and stay at that same high-risk level regardless of how long they are overweight,” said Ference. 

Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle

Consumers can lower their risk of developing diabetes by following a healthier lifestyle. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into a daily diet and making time to be physically active can also lower the chances of getting the disease. 

“The findings indicate that most cases of diabetes could be avoided by keeping BMI below the cut-off which triggers abnormal blood sugar,” Ference said. “This means that to prevent diabetes, both BMI and blood sugar should be assessed regularly. Efforts to lose weight are critical when a person starts to develop blood sugar problems.” 

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