Use tape measure to track diabetes, say experts

December 19, 2003 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

Use tape measure to track diabetes, say experts

Identifying who is at risk of diabetes and a number of other health concerns may be as simple as measuring waist size, according to a new report.

U.S. researchers found that people who had relatively large waists and an excess of fats in their blood were more likely to also have diabetes or appear to be at risk of diabetes or other conditions, such as high cholesterol.

Consequently, a simple tape measure may be the only tool a doctor needs to identify people who would benefit from extra medical attention to ward off future health problems. If a person's waist is relatively large, an inexpensive blood test can be used to measure the amount of fat circulating in the blood.

If a person has both a large waist and large amount of fat in the blood, researchers suggest the person receive advice about diet and exercise, and perhaps treatments to ease the symptoms of pre-existing conditions.

Body fat tends to accumulate around the abdomen with age, and this is not the first study to link a "spare tire" to a number of health problems.

During the current study, researchers measured the waist sizes and blood fat levels of 9183 adults of all ages, noted who fell above certain "threshold" levels, and what other conditions they had.

The threshold levels for waist size and blood fats were determined by looking at the predominant values in people aged 18-24, a time of relative health and vigor. The threshold value for waist size was 95 centimeters (about 38 inches) in men and 88 centimeters (about 35 inches) in women.

The proportion of people with both waist sizes and blood fat levels above threshold values increased with age, going from only 6 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 24, and rising to 43 percent of people between 55 and 74 years old.

People with large waists and high blood fat levels were more than three times as likely to have diabetes, and tended to show relatively high levels of glucose and insulin in their blood, a sign they are at risk of developing diabetes.

It may be, however, that very few doctors include waist measurements in their practice, largely because there has been little effort to publicize the importance of doing so or to establish international standards for threshold values and measuring techniques.

The current findings suggest that physicians should include waist size measurement in the health evaluation procedures that they use in their routine clinical practices.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.