BMI Is a Stronger Predictor of Diabetes Risk Than Genetics
Body mass index (BMI) was found to be a more significant risk factor for diabetes than genetic predisposition, according to research presented at the ESC Congress 2020.1 The study focused on how BMI and polygenic scores (PGS) could be utilized to evaluate an individual’s risk of diabetes and identify those for whom prevention efforts would be the most beneficial.
For their study, the researchers utilized data from the UK Biobank which included 445,765 participants, of whom 54% were female with an average age at 57.2 years. The participants were divided into 5 groups based on both genetic risk, determined using 6.9 million genes, and BMI. During the follow-up period, 31,298 participants developed type 2 diabetes.
The increased risk for those in the highest BMI group (average 34.5 kg/m2) was 11 times that of the participants in the lowest BMI group (average 21.7 kg/m2). Regardless of genetic risk, the highest BMI group had a greater likelihood of developing diabetes over the other BMI groups.
Further, the researchers found that the duration of increased BMI did not have an impact on the risk of diabetes. “This suggests that when people cross a certain BMI threshold, their chances of diabetes go up and stay at that same high-risk level regardless of how long they are overweight,” said lead researcher Brian Ference of the secondary results. Likely to differ from person to person, this threshold is the BMI at which the individual begins to develop abnormal blood sugar levels.
“We conducted this study to find out if combining inherited risk current body mass index could identify people at the highest risk of developing diabetes. Prevention efforts could then concentrate on these individuals,” said Ference in a press release.2 “The findings indicate that most cases of diabetes could be avoided by keeping BMI below the cut-off which triggers abnormal blood sugar. This means that to prevent diabetes, both BMI and blood sugar should be assessed regularly. Efforts to lose weight are critical when a person starts to develop blood sugar problems.”
- Ference, B. Integrating the Effect of BMI and Polygenic Scores to estimate Lifetime Risk and Identify Optimal Treatment Targets to Prevent or Reverse Diabetes. Presented at: ESC Congress 2020; August 31, 2020; virtual.
- Body mass index is a more powerful risk factor for diabetes than genetics. News release. European Society of Cardiology. August 31, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2020. https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/Body-mass-index-is-a-more-powerful-risk-factor-for-diabetes-than-genetics