Overweight people with large waists have almost equal risk of developing diabetes as obese people

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(CBS News) Overweight people who have a large waist size might have the same chance of developing type 2 diabetes that people who are obese.

A new study, published in PLoS Medicine on June 5, shows that overweight individuals who have a large waist - which is defined as 35 inches or more in a woman or 40 inches or more in a man - have an almost equal risk of developing diabetes within 10-years as an obese person does.

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The distinction between overweight and obese is determined by the body mass index (BMI). Individuals with a BMI of 25 - 29.9 are considered overweight, while those who have a BMI over 30 are considered obese. However, the National Institute of Health points out that BMI is an estimate of body fat, but can be inaccurate and overestimate fat in athletes and those with a muscular build and underestimate body fat in older persons and those with less muscle. By checking someone's waist size, doctors can get a more accurate measure of abdominal fat, which has been linked to diabetes.

Researchers pulled data from 25 centers in eight European countries of 12,400 people with type 2 diabetes and 16,100 people who did not have the disease. Underweight people were not included in the study. Paying attention to their waist and BMI, they found a strong link between higher waist size, higher BMI and type 2 diabetes.

Obese women with a large waist were 32 times more likely to get diabetes than women with low-normal BMI (18.5 to 22.4) and a smaller waist (less than 31 inches). Obese men with a large waist were 22 times more likely than men with a low-normal BMI and a smaller waist (less than 31 inches) to develop the disease.

Breaking it down further, this meant that 7 percent of men and 4.4 percent of women who were overweight and had a large waist would develop diabetes in a 10-year period. The stats were similar or even higher for obese people.

In a blog post for PLoS, Dr. Peter Janiszewski, an editor/expert scientific reviewer for the Edanz Group, wrote that the results shouldn't be shocking. Previous studies have linked body shape to higher risk for developing diabetes. Another study showed that those with a higher waist size had a greater chance of dying from all health causes regardless if their BMI was normal or not.

"If your waist circumference is greater than 102 cm (men) [40 inches] or 88 cm [35 inches] (women), you may be at risk of disease and premature death even if you are at a healthy weight," Janiszewski wrote. "Conversely, if your BMI is in the overweight or obese range, but your waist circumference falls below the above cutpoints, you may not have much to worry about."

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