Health Team

Study links diabetes to older, obese adults

Posted June 22, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 22, 2010 7:15 p.m. EDT

Americans over the age of 65 have the highest incidence of diabetes, according to researchers. Being overweight or obese, losing lean muscle to fat or seeing fat shift to the waist and hips can also increase a person’s risk.

"We found it surprising that the relationship between adiposity, or body fat, and diabetes was so strong among older adults,” said Mary L. Biggs, of the University of Washington’s Department of Biostatistics.

In a study conducted at the University of Washington and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at more than 4,000 adults age 65 and older. They examined measures such as weight, height, body fat and waist size.

"Our study suggests that obesity in older adults may also have health consequences specifically as it relates to the development of diabetes later in life,” the University of Washington's Dr. David S. Siscovick said.

People in the upper 20 percent of those measures were four times more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Those who gained 20 or more pounds between ages 50 and 65 increased their risk up to three times more than those whose weight remained stable.

Researchers said the study affirms the importance of controlling weight as you age to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Prior to this study, there was very limited information regarding body fat and diabetes risk in older adults, Siscovick said.