Researchers at the Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago report that 20.7 percent of all American adults who have type 2 diabetes are “morbidly obese,” a description that applies to people who are 100 or more pounds overweight. The researchers said that the figure for African Americans is even higher, with one out of three type 2s in that group falling under the definition of morbidly obese.
Even though being overweight puts people with type 2 diabetes at further risk for the cardiovascular, renal, limb, and sight problems that are common consequences of the disease, the figures reported by the Loyola scientists are well below what they reported for people without diabetes. Overall, they said, 62.4 percent of all U.S. adults who have type 2 are obese. In contrast, the rate of obesity among U.S. adults who do not have diabetes is about half that. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more, while morbid obesity is a BMI of 40 or more.
BMI is determined by comparing a person’s height with his or her ideal weight. For example, depending on his build, a 5-foot, 9-inch man should weigh from 128 to 162 pounds, which corresponds to a BMI of 19 through 24. A weight of 169 to 196 pounds-a BMI of 25 through 29-is considered overweight. A weight from 203 to 263 pounds, which equates to a BMI of 30 to 39, is considered obese. At a BMI of 40, which is 270 pounds, that 5-foot, 9-inch man would be considered morbidly obese.
The Loyola team examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which were conducted from 1976 through 2006. They looked at BMI, waist circumference measurements, and obesity rates for 4,162 U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes and for 40,376 without diabetes, and then compared the results. They found that over the course of the 31-year study, the average BMI among type 2s increased 17 percent, to 34.2-an obese BMI. For people without diabetes, the increase was 11.5 percent, to an average BMI of 28.1-an overweight BMI.
The rate of morbid obesity among adults with type 2 increased 141 percent, while non-morbid obesity among type 2s rose 58 percent. As disturbing as those figures are, however, they are dwarfed by the results for people without diabetes: Morbid obesity among that group increased 345 percent over the same period, while non-morbid obesity increased by 136 percent. The Loyola researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, concluded that the rise in BMI numbers for both groups resulted from three factors: the abundance of cheap food, a trend toward larger portions of food, and increased consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas.
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