Say the phrase "type 2 diabetes," and you might immediately think of its relation to obesity. The two terms have become almost interchangeable in health reports and discussions, but a new study has found that obesity might not be the only link to diabetes worth investigating.

A recent study published in the February issue of Plos Medicine showed that most people who were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes did not get the disease until they had been obese or overweight for several years.

For the study, researchers from the Steno Diabetes Center in Gentofte, Denmark, analyzed data from just over 6,700 civil servants working in London over a five-year period. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had type 2 diabetes mellitus. By the end of the study period, 645 people had developed the disease.

The researchers found that there were three distinct patterns among those who developed type 2 diabetes. The first and largest group identified by the researchers was the stable overweight, those who were consistently yet only slightly overweight throughout the entire study period. The second group was made up of folks who progressively gained weight throughout the study period, while the third and smallest group was made up of those who were persistently obese for five years. What the researchers suggest from these findings is that health care programs should focus on at least as much if not more emphasis on achieving small weight loss goals for the majority of people who are considered slightly overweight rather than large weight loss goals for those who are considered obese.

The researchers concluded that obesity is sometimes — but not always — a predictor to the risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus. And they urge health care providers to look beyond the numbers on the scale to assess each individual's diabetes risk.

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