Can body shape really determine diabetes? There are type 1 and 2 diabetes. Both are long term conditions that result in high sugar levels in the blood. Approximately 5% of all diabetics have type 1 diabetes. With type 1 diabetes the body is unable to produce any insulin. Insulin regulates your blood sugar and prevents it from becoming too high or too low. With type 2 diabetes your body is not able to produce enough insulin.
More than 29 million Americans have diabetes. Another 86 million Americans have what is called pre-diabetes. This is where their blood sugar levels are in fact higher than normal, but not high enough to be classed as Type 2. Without a lifestyle change to include exercise and healthy eating, 15 to 30% of people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes.
There is no actual cure for diabetes so preventing diabetes is all about understanding the factors that contribute to getting the disease. Similarly living with diabetes is all about managing your lifestyle and getting the proper treatment at the right time.
It may seem obvious that the size of your body determines a host of health related issues. As Dr Danny Sam, an internal medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente, California says “Patients who have a higher body mass index have a higher risk of diabetes.”
Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by dividing your weight into your height. It’s a simple calculation that can determine whether you’re overweight or not. Consequently it can be used as a factor to determine how at risk of getting diabetes you are. High BMI means greater risk.
But it turns out it’s where that fat is actually stored could hold the key to whether you are more or less likely to get diabetes. So body shape becomes an important factor.
Women who carry excess weight around their abdomen are called apple shaped. Those who carry it around the bottom and thighs are pear shaped. Men, in the main carry the weight on their abdomen.
“Most genes that have been associated with type 2 diabetes are related to the pancreas,” says lead researcher Kerrin Small, a genomics researcher at King’s College London in England. “What’s different about the KLF14 gene is that it’s expressed in fat tissue.”
Professor Mark McCarthy from the University of Oxford, says “KLF14 seems to act as a master switch controlling processes that connect changes in the behaviour of subcutaneous fat to disturbances in muscle and liver that contribute to diabetes and other conditions.”
Small says “That suggests that variations in the gene affect people’s sensitivity to insulin.”
Understanding how master genes like these work could allow researchers to get to the root of diseases such as diabetes leading to new therapies.
Dr Caroline Apovian, a spokeswoman for the Obesity Society, says “This could lead to treatments down the road.” Apovian, who also directs nutrition and weight management at the Boston Medical Center, adds: ”There are genetic influences over your body shape and diabetes risk,” she said “But there’s still a lot that you can do to lower your risk.”
And here’s some advice from the actor Tom Hanks: “Type 2 diabetes is not going to kill me. But I just have to eat right, and exercise, and lose weight and I will be fine for the rest of my life.”