New research has revealed that men are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if their wives are obese, but women living with overweight men don’t face the same risks.
The researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have called for men aged 50 or older who live with obese women to be screened for type 2 diabetes.
Dr Adam Hulma, who led the research, said: “It doesn’t mean that the wife’s [body mass index] BMI is the most determinant” factor for a husband’s obesity. [The man’s] own BMI is still the most important factor.
“One explanation could be that at the end of the 1990s in the UK, women were more responsible for or the ones who determined the diet of the family or the household.”
The study team examined a total of 3,650 men and 3,478 women aged 50 or older, with participants interviewed every two and a half years over a 17-year period between 1998 and 2015.
The new rate of diagnoses for type 2 diabetes was 12.6 per 1,000 people per year among men and 8.6 per cent among women. Additionally, those aged 55 or over who had a partner with type 2 diabetes were more likely to be obese compared to those with partners without diabetes.
In a further study, men who shared their wives’ lack of exercise and bad eating habits were found to be 21 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but the scientists were left baffled as to why the results didn’t apply the other way round.
“Having an obese wife increases a man’s risk of diabetes over and above the effect of his own obesity level, while among women, having an obese husband gives no additional diabetes risk beyond that of her own obesity level,” added Hulman.
“Our results indicate that on finding obesity in a person, screening of their partner for diabetes may be justified. In particular, men whose wives are obese may benefit from being followed more closely.
“Recognising shared risk between spouses may improve diabetes detection and motivate couples to increase collaborative efforts to eat more healthily and boost their activity levels.”
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise to help prevent the onset of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and even put type 2 diabetes into remission. For easy to follow guidance on healthy eating visit the Low Carb Program.

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