Researchers assess type 2 diabetes predictive qualities of BMI and waist circumference

Body mass index may be as effective a means of measuring a child's type 2 diabetes risk as looking at their waist circumference, according to a new study from a team of University of Michigan researchers.

Body mass index, or BMI, has traditionally been the main measurement used to assess a person's type 2 diabetes risk. The more weight they have relative to their height, the more likely they are to develop the condition.

However, in recent years, some medical professionals have begun using waist circumference to analyze a patient's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The thinking is that this is the most accurate measure of a person's abdominal fat, which is directly linked to the development of chronic cardio-metabolic diseases.

To test which method is more predictive, the researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 1,500 children from 1999 to 2002. The results showed that both BMI and waist circumference were equally effective at forecasting an individual's chances of developing insulin resistance, one of the first major symptoms of type 2 diabetes, during the course of the study.

"Waist circumference does not seem to provide a distinct advantage over BMI for identifying high-risk adolescents. Our findings suggest that further studies are needed before waist circumference is included as part of routine pediatric primary care screening," said Joyce Lee, MD, the leader of the investigation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that BMI should be the primary measure of a young person's type 2 diabetes risk. While some experts have called for the Academy to begin recommending waist circumference, the current findings suggest that more research may be needed before any updates are made.
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