Married couples share the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.
A Danish study has found a link between the weight of one spouse and the chances of the other spouse being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Having identified this connectio, the research team from the Departments of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University now think it might be beneficial for a man or women to bring their partner to a doctor’s visit in order to help determine their risk factors.
Postdoc Jannie Nielse, who is the first author of the study, said: “We have discovered that you can predict a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes based on his or her partner’s BMI. This means that you can tell whether a person has a heightened risk or not on the basis of the partner’s BMI.”
Previous studies have shown that married couples often have similar body weight because they are prone to sharing the same dietary and exercise habits. But the researchers wanted to investigate the issue further and see whether these findings had any bearing on the chances of developing the condition.
The results showed that men had an especially notable increase in risk of type 2 diabetes if their spouse was obese. If a man with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 had a wife with BMI of 30 kg/m2, the husband faced a 21% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with other men of the same BMI.
This indicates that men’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes increased according to their wives’ BMI relatively irrespective of the man’s own BMI. Women were also found to have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes if their husbands were obese. However, the association was not significant when the women’s own BMI values were taken into account.
The findings were based on more than 7,000 adults (3,649 men and 3,478 women) from the UK that were part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing cohort.
Ms Nielsen added: “If we adjusted for the women’s own weight, they did not have a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a result of their husband’s BMI. But even when we adjusted for the weight in men, they had a heightened risk. We believe it is because women generally decide what we eat at home. That is, women have greater influence on their spouse’s dietary habits than men do.”
The researchers say the results could help doctors detect type 2 diabetes much earlier in people who may not have realised they were at risk.
“We know that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or postponed, reducing the number of years that patients have to live with the disease,” said Ms Nielsen. “Our approach to type 2 diabetes should not focus on the individual, but instead o, for example, the entire household. If a woman has a heightened risk, there is a strong probability that it is shared by her husband.”
The findings have been published in the journal Diabetologia.
Editor’s note: Our Low Carb Program, which aims to help people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes lose weight and come off diabetes medication, is full of family friendly recipes and meal tips to help improve dietary habits, and is designed for the whole family to enjoy eating real, non-processed foods.

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