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Late-Life Weight Gain May Bring on Diabetes
 Weight Management Feature Story

Late-Life Weight Gain May Bring on Diabetes
Risk is found to be even higher when pounds settle around the middle

Late-Life Weight Gain May Bring on Diabetes (HealthDay News) -- Weight gain isn't uncommon for older adults. People slow down, and aching joints may keep them from exercising as much as they did when they were younger.

But, late-life weight gain can significantly raise your diabetes risk, especially if the weight you gain stays around your mid-section.

In fact, researchers have found that people who gained more than 20 pounds after age 50 nearly tripled their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

"We showed a strong relationship between increasing weight and waist circumference with the risk of type 2 diabetes," study author Mary Biggs, a research scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, told HealthDay. "It's important as we get older to try to maintain an optimal weight."

"People over the age of 65 are at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and they have the highest rates of morbidity and mortality from heart disease, which can be related to diabetes," she added. "This is really a key clinic and public health issue."

Other risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being older than 45, having had diabetes during pregnancy, being overweight, having a family history of the disease, having high-density lipoprotein ("good") cholesterol levels below 35 milligrams per deciliter, living a sedentary lifestyle and having high blood pressure, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The research by Biggs and colleagues, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, used data from the Cardiovascular Health Study. That study included information on almost 4,200 people who were older than 65. None had diabetes when the study began.

Information on body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio and more was gathered at the start of the study and periodically during an average of 12 years of follow-up.

People who had the highest levels of baseline measurements -- the biggest waist circumference, for example -- had more than quadruple the risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest measurements.

The timing of weight gain mattered, too. When people older than 50 who had been of normal weight gained more than 20 pounds, their risk for diabetes by age 65 increased by 3.2 times, according to the study. The effect was even stronger for those who were overweight at 50, and then gained more weight.

"Weight gain increases the risk of diabetes at any age," Dr. Loren Wissner Greene, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, told HealthDay.

Where the weight settled also made a difference. Men whose waists measured 41.2 inches or more had a 5.1 times increased risk of diabetes, compared with men with the smallest waists, at less than 35.1 inches. For women with a waist of more than 39.8 inches, the odds of diabetes were 3.6 times higher than for women with waists less than 30.9 inches.

Wissner Greene explained that abdominal or "visceral" fat is associated with insulin resistance, and that's why people who retain weight around the middle of the body are more likely to develop diabetes.

On the Web

To learn whether you might be at risk for diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: HealthDay News;Mary Biggs, Ph.D., research scientist, University of Washington, Seattle; Loren Wissner Greene, M.D., endocrinologist, NYU Langone Medical Center, and clinical associate professor, New York University School of Medicine, New York City; June 23/30, 2010, Journal of the American Medical Association; U.S. National Library of Medicine (

Author: Serena Gordon

Publication Date: July 31, 2011

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