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28-09-2009 | Diabetes | Article

Impact of abdominal obesity on diabetes ‘strikingly’ similar across Europe


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MedWire News: The effect of abdominal obesity on the frequency of diabetes is similar across different regions of Europe, despite regional differences in cardiovascular risk factors and rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD), study findings show.

“This lack of regional differences suggests that abdominal obesity has a major influence on the development of diabetes,” say Keith Fox (University of Edinburgh, UK) and colleagues.

The researchers conducted the International Day for Evaluation of Abdominal Obesity (IDEA) study, which involved 37,437 men and 53,809 women from 27 countries across Europe.

The frequency of diabetes, irrespective of age, was similar for the three study regions – Northwest Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe. In contrast, CVD was at least two-fold more frequent in Eastern Europe than in Northwest Europe and 2.5-fold more frequent compared with Southern Europe.

Waist circumference, as a measure of abdominal obesity, was associated with an increased risk for diabetes. After correcting for body mass index (BMI) and age, a one standard deviation increase in waist circumference in each geographic region increased the risk for diabetes 1.3- to 1.5-fold in men and from 1.5- to 1.8-fold in women.

The researchers note in the European Heart Journal that the frequency of diabetes according to waist circumference was “strikingly” similar in Northwest Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe for both men and women.

Waist circumference also predicted CVD, irrespective of regional differences in CVD prevalence. After adjusting for BMI and age, a standard deviation increase in waist circumference increased the risk for CVD in women 1.28-fold in Northwest Europe, 1.26-fold in Southern Europe, and 1.10-fold in Eastern Europe, with similar findings in men.

Fox et al estimate that the age-adjusted proportion of risk attributable (PAR) to increased waist circumference for CVD in men is 10.2% in Eastern Europe, 6.3% in Northwest Europe, and 7.0% in Southern Europe. The corresponding PAR for women was 11.8%, 4.9%, and 3.7%.

The PAR to increased waist circumference for diabetes in men was 11.8% in Eastern Europe, 12.1% in Northwest Europe, and 7.3% in Southern Europe. For women, the PAR was 10.3%, 10.8%, and 10.8%, respectively.

“The data suggest that frequency of diabetes could therefore be reduced by around 10% by eliminating abdominal obesity, but this may underestimate the longer-term impact,” write Fox and co-workers.

They conclude: “The high frequency of abdominal obesity presents a major challenge irrespective of the different sociodemographic characteristics across Europe and the impact on diabetes may offset future declines in CVD prevalence, even in regions with lower rates of CVD.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a part of Springer Science+Business Media. © Current Medicine Group Ltd; 2009

By Lucy Piper