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On the up (and out) — body weight and T2 diabetes

As a statement about the general health of the population, we’re all getting fatter, and one inevitable consequence is type 2 diabetes. A University of Glasgow team has examined data from the Health Survey of England and the Scottish Health Survey comparing the periods of 1994-96 and 2008-10.

Between these two periods, the prevalence of individuals with a BMI greater than 30 (considered ‘obese’) increased by 5-15% on average, reaching a peak at age 60-70 with 35-38% being obese in both sexes. This peak prevalence happens five to 10 years later than previously observed in 1994-96 for men, and unchanged for women.

Between the two dates, mean BMI at all ages and for both sexes in England and Scotland increased significantly, as did the prevalence of BMIs above 25 (overweight) and 30 (obese), and at a younger age. The prevalence of a BMI greater than 30 doubled in English young men (to 10.7%) and tripled in Scottish young men (to 12.1%). A similar picture emerged in women, reaching 17.8% in England and 20.1% in Scotland.

Professor Mike Lean who helped oversee the study commented, “Within the 14-year period of this study, we are seeing more young people entering adult life already obese, and more older people have adverse body composition. The continuing rise of waist circumference in older age groups is evidence of continued body fat accumulation and redistribution into older age, which is a major public health concern. The use of BMI alone as a measure for adiposity in this age group may be misleading and using waist circumference might be better for identifying adverse changes in body composition.”

The study, ‘Changing distributions of body-size and adiposity with age’ is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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