It's not just the size of the waist, but also the size of fat cells that play a major role in determining a women's risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a long-range study by Swedish researchers.
The discovery helps explain why some women of normal weight develop type 2 diabetes, even though they do not have any known risk factors.
"Increased knowledge of the link between enlarged fat cells and the development of type 2 diabetes may give rise to new preventive and therapeutic alternatives. Our research also identifies the ratio waist-to-height, waist circumference divided by body height, as a simple tool that can be used to identify women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes," said Malin Lonn, co-author of the study at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The researchers obtained the data for the study as part of the "Prospective Study of Women in Gothenburg," performed in Sweden and started in 1968 by Professor Emeritus Calle Bengtsson.
In the current study, the researchers invited women to free health examinations over the course of 25 years.
In 1974-1975, scientists collected abdominal fat biopsies from some of the women and tracked who developed type 2 diabetes.
They found that the number of abdominal fat cells remained relatively constant in women after adolescence, but the size of fat cells could change considerably throughout life and were larger in women with type 2 diabetes.
They also found that waist-to-height ratio may also be a good indicator of diabetes risk.
"Despite notions to the contrary, size does matter to women-at least when it comes to her fat cells, her waist-to-height-ratio and her risk for type 2 diabetes. This is a remarkable study that should lead to preventive measures for this most common of serious diseases," said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal.
The study has been published online in the FASEB Journal.