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Obesity is greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes irrespective of genetics

Risk factors of type 2 diabetes

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is six times greater among obese people, irrespective of genetics, researchers have said.

A Danish study involving 4,729 people and a randomly selected group of 5,402 individuals, showed that obesity is a “dominant” risk factor compared with other factors.

The team from the University of Copenhagen wanted to explore whether poor lifestyle choices and obesity are accentuated by genetics when it comes to type 2 diabetes.

The average age of all the participants was just over 56 years and 49.6% were women. A total of 21.8% were classified as obese, 43.0% were overweight and 35.2% were considered of normal weight.

The research team applied a genetic risk score (GRS) made up of 193 type 2 diabetes-related genetic variants to each participant.

They also assessed their lifestyle by taking into account smoking habits, alcohol consumption, exercise and diet. Their GRS, obesity and lifestyle score was then calculated using a statistical modelling approach to work out their type 2 diabetes risk.

The findings suggested that obese people were almost six times likely to develop the condition, when compared to someone of normal weight. Overweight people had a 2.4 times higher risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Stats showed that those with the highest GRS were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared with people who had a low score.

Unhealthy lifestyle increased the type 2 diabetes risk by 18% when compared to those who followed a good diet and exercised regularly.

For those who were obese, reported a poor lifestyle and also had a high GRS, their type 2 diabetes risk was 14.5 times higher than those who were not overweight, lived healthily and had a low GRS score.

The authors concluded: “The results suggest that type 2 diabetes prevention by weight management and healthy lifestyle is critical across all genetic risk groups. Furthermore, we found that the effect of obesity on type 2 diabetes risk is dominant over other risk factors, highlighting the importance of weight management in type 2 diabetes prevention.”

The study findings have been published in Diabetologia.

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