The Weighty Bias (When It Comes to Diabetes Screening)

overweight man at computerIf you’re overweight or obese, there’s a good chance you’ve been screened for type 2 diabetes. That’s because doctors, like the rest of us, associate the condition with excess weight, especially if it’s belly fat.

But a new study in the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that screening by appearance may have unfortunate consequences for normal weight folks – the ones who generally aren’t recommended for screening.

Over 33% of them were found to have undiagnosed prediabetes.

The study compared two sets of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one from 1988 to 1994 and the other from 1999 to 2012. The authors’ focused on adults over 20 who had a normal BMI and no sign of diabetes. Blood sugar levels for prediabetes were defined as ranging between 100mg/dl to 125 mg/dl. Abdominal obesity was measured by waist circumference and waist to height ratio.

The results showed an alarming and consistent trend across the two survey groups.

  • In adults age 20 to 44, prediabetes rose from 10.2% to 18.5%.
  • In adults over 45, prediabetes rose from 22% to 33.1%.
  • In all adults, unhealthy waist circumference rose from 5.6% to 7.6% and unhealthy waist to height ratio rose from 27.2% to 33.7%.

Clearly, weight alone should not be the main trigger for diabetes screening.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease. As an inflammatory disease, it’s associated with other chronic diseases of inflammation, such as gum disease, heart disease, and stroke. More, all of these are largely preventable diseases.

Dealing with weight issues, most of us know intuitively what might improve the state of our health, yet, many of us turn to experts because we don’t trust our wisdom.

But all the recommendations we receive – how much to exercise, what to eat, what not to eat – are just part of the picture. Often, because the recommendations don’t fit with our authentic self, we give up. We think we failed. We go back to our “normal” habits – you know, the ones we were trying to change.

The thing is, most of the time we make it too complicated to mesh well with our real lives.

The big secret nobody tells you is that the real key to health isn’t an expert’s method at all. The key is to live an authentic life filled with vitality. But so very often, for so many people, weight and disease can feel isolating. When negative thoughts take hold, vitality can’t.

Weight and disease can be an opportunity. They don’t have to be a limit. Seizing the opportunity, within personal limits, can mean choosing activities that can become habits. Anything that creates or exposes you to optimism, movement, exercise, laughter, sociability, community, and real food, can become routine. Your routine will be different than mine. But, regardless of weight or health, this kind of authentic vitality naturally trends toward health.

And yes, you still have to make choices, but they are your choices.

Image by Robin Hutton

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