For Women, Diabetes Risk May Be Linked to Body Shape

A genetic variant that regulates where women store body fat could influence type 2 diabetes risk, a new study reports.

Alleles, or versions, of this genetic variant - which is located near the KLF14 gene - cause fat-storing cells to function differently, which can change a woman's body shape.

Lead study author Kerrin Small, PhD, explained:

Previous studies have shown that on average, women who carry fat in their hips - those with a 'pear-shaped' body type - are significantly less likely to develop diabetes than those with smaller hips. Looking at the variant we studied, large-scale genome-wide association studies show that women with one allele tend to have larger hips than women with the other one, which would have a protective effect against diabetes.

The genetic variant is inherited maternally, which could explain - in certain cases - why diabetes is genetic.

Apple or pear?

Women who have fat that collects around the middle -sometimes described as apple-shaped - are generally more at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Yet according to Dr. Danny Sam, from Kaiser Permanente, body shape is less of a factor for diabetes risk than body mass index or body weight.

“Patients who have a higher body mass index have a higher risk [of diabetes]," Sam said.

Waist measurement is also an important factor that can predict diabetes risk - women with a waistline greater than 35 have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, while for men the number is 40 inches.

Source: American Society of Human Genetics, Everyday Health

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