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The Belt Test for Diabetes

A man’s waistband may provide a big clue about his risk for diabetes. In fact, researchers report, the relationship seemed to be an even better gauge than body mass index, a measure of height and weight. The study, led by Dr. Youfa Wang, appears in the current American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The findings grew out of the long-term Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which tracks only men, so the researchers said more study was needed to determine if the results applied to women. The researchers looked at the histories of more than 27,000 men over 13 years.

When the study compared waist circumference with diabetes incidence, they found that the bigger the waist, the greater the risk of developing the disease. Men with waists that were 37.9 to 39.8 inches in circumference, for example, had a risk five times as great as men whose waists were 29 to 34 inches.

Dr. Wang, who conducted the study when he was at the University of Illinois and is now at Johns Hopkins, said the explanation might lie in the characteristics of the fat that accumulates around the waist.

The study also recommended that maximum waist size suggested in federal guidelines, now 40 inches, should be lowered. And it said that using a waste-to-hip ratio to assess diabetes risk was not as good as using just the waist measurement.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April, 2005