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Lifestyle Factors Increase Diabetes Risk

Long-term follow-up of more than 7000 middle-aged adults without diabetes showed that unhealthy behaviors like excessive weight gain, smoking and heavy drinking may explain almost half of the social disparities in type 2 diabetes. The study which was recently published online on the British Medical Journal looked into socioeconomic and lifestyle related risk factors for diabetes in study participants taking part in the Whitehall II study involving British civil servants, aged 35 to 55 in 1985.

An international team of researchers assessed the health behaviors including smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and physical activity, as well as the body mass index, blood pressure and lipid (cholesterol) levels in participants without diabetes. Socioeconomic status was evaluated through their social status, occupation, education, salary, and level of responsibility at work. These factors were repeatedly assessed over an average of 14 years.

After about 14 years, 818 participants developed diabetes. It was found that participants in the lowest occupational category had a nearly two-fold greater risk of developing the disease compared to those in the highest occupational category. The researchers also found that body mass index was the single most important contributing factor which explained about 20% of socioeconomic differences, while together with health behaviors it explained up to 45% of this differential in both men and women. With additional adjustments for biological risk markers (high blood pressure and high cholesterol), a total of 53% of the socioeconomic differential was accounted for.

The authors conclude that further efforts are needed to improve lifestyle factors among people especially in lower socioeconomic groups to reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes.


BMJ-British Medical Journal. Lifestyle changes among disadvantaged groups key to tackling diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2012.

Posted in: Diabetes, News Briefs

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