July 13, 2007 / 4:53 PM / 12 years ago

Trimming the waist may trim diabetes, heart risks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who manage to reduce their waistlines may also lower their risk for diabetes and heart disease, a study suggests.

French researchers found that men and women whose waistlines expanded by 3 inches or more over nine years were at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome — a collection of risk factors, including high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, that raise a person’s odds of diabetes and heart disease.

In contrast, women who shed just an inch or more from their midsections had a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome than women whose waistlines stayed the same.

What’s more, a slimmed-down middle benefited women who already had metabolic syndrome at the study’s outset, the researchers report in the journal Diabetes Care. Compared with women who had metabolic syndrome and an unchanged waistline, those who lost an inch or more were nearly four times more likely to no longer have the syndrome at the study’s close.

Weight loss also benefited men, but the specific effects of a trimmer waist were no longer evident when the researchers factored in changes in body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height.

Both BMI and waist size are important in the risks of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease, said Dr. Beverley Balkau, a researcher at the French national health institute INSERM and the study’s lead author.

However, she told Reuters Health, people can be normal weight based on BMI yet have a large waist, and these individuals are at risk of metabolic syndrome.

While an expanding waistline may mean ballooning health risks, it is at least a health indicator that people can easily track, Balkau noted. Waistbands that feel tighter than they used to are the giveaway.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, July 2007.

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