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By the time the warning signs of diabetes are evident, much of the havoc the condition wreaks is already been done.
In fact, living with diabetes doubles your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease. It also skyrockets your chances of ending up with Alzheimer’s, nerve damage and kidney disease.
This makes preventing blood sugar problems in the first place vital to preserving your health and your life.
Yet, what if your mom had diabetes… or your dad or your grandparents?
Are you doomed to have diabetes thanks to your genetics? Or is there a more important, controllable factor that could give you a way to stave off blood sugar battles?
Well, according to a new study, the answer is yes…
BMI outweighs genetics for diabetes risk
The research included a whopping 445,765 participants, most of whom joined the study when they were around 57 years old and were followed until an average age of just over 65.
Definitely not a flash-in-the-pan study. This was some serious, long-term research.
Basically, the team wanted to determine just how much of a role genetics plays in the likelihood of diabetes development in comparison to obesity and to figure out whether modifications to body weight could help to prevent or even reverse the condition.
The researchers assessed each person’s inherited risk of diabetes using 6.9 million genes and took height and weight measurements to calculate their body mass index or BMI (body mass divided by the square of your body height). They then divided them all into groups based on both their genetic risk and BMI and then waited and watched to see who actually ended up with diabetes and who didn’t.
And here’s what they found…
Participants in the highest BMI group (average 34.5 kg/m2) had an elevenfold increased risk of diabetes compared to participants in the lowest BMI group (average 21.7 kg/m2).
Yes, you read that right!
An 11 times higher risk thanks to an elevated BMI.
Regardless of genetic predisposition
And here’s where things get really interesting…
The highest BMI group had a greater likelihood of developing diabetes than all other BMI groups, regardless of genetic risk.
In other words, you could have zero genetic risk yet have the highest chance of getting diabetes simply because of your weight.
As the principal investigator, Professor Brian Ference, of the University of Cambridge puts it, “The findings indicate that BMI is a much more powerful risk factor for diabetes that genetic predisposition.”
And he says that the study also showed that it doesn’t matter how long you remain overweight, only that you’re overweight just long enough to kick off the blood sugar problems in the first place. In essence, once you cross a certain BMI threshold, your chances of diabetes go up and stay at that same high-risk level regardless of long you keep the weight on.
“Efforts to lose weight are critical when a person starts to develop blood sugar problems. It may also be possible to reverse diabetes by losing weight in the early stages before permanent damage occurs,” said Professor Ference.
Changing your future and your family legacy
This means that while genetics may have a role to play in diabetes, it’s much smaller and less important than your BMI, which is great news since your weight and BMI are completely in your hands.
There are numerous diet and exercise plans to choose from, but the single most important key to success is in choosing one that you can stick to.
And there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Just check out the results from this “old school” weight loss program…
Researchers in the U.K. followed up on a U.S. study that showed that participation in a Weight Watchers program succeeded in reversing progression to type 2 diabetes.
Participants determined to be prediabetic were invited to contact Weight Watchers to book a place on their diabetes prevention program, which included a 90-minute introductory session followed by 48 weekly group meetings.
Their program focuses on improving diet quality, reducing portion size and increasing physical activity levels. And guess what?
Blood glucose levels returned to normal in more than a third (38 percent) of the participants and only 3 percent developed type 2 diabetes after 12 months. This meant that more than a third of those at risk for developing type 2 diabetes were able to avoid it by following the Weight Watchers’ diet plan.
As an added bonus, the average weight loss per person amounted to over 22 pounds during the 12 months they followed the program.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to accept diabetes as your fate just because it runs in your family. Get a handle on BMI and you should be good to go.
Diabetes — Mayo Clinic