Yes, looks can be deceiving. And while it’s common to use weight or BMI to estimate a person’s health risks, a report from Annals of Family Medicine (2016; 14 [4], 304–10) suggests with prediabetes it’s important to go deeper.

Produced by University of Florida researchers, the report says one-third of normal-weight adults over age 45 have prediabetes, a high-risk state for developing type 2 diabetes. The scientists analyzed data for people aged 20 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Here are some of the findings:

  • The prevalence of prediabetes among healthy-weight adults, aged 20 and older and without diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, increased from 10.2% in 1988–1994 to 18.5% in 2012.
  • Among people aged 45 and older, the prevalence of prediabetes increased from 22.0% to 33.1%.
  • The percentage of adults aged 20 and older with an unhealthy waist circumference increased from 5.6% in 1988–1994 to 7.6% in 2012.
  • The percentage of people with an unhealthy waist-to-height ratio increased from 27.2% in 1988–1994 to 33.7% in 2012.

These data show a trend toward rising levels of prediabetes. Moreover, the report also raises concerns about current practices used to detect the disease.

“Current recommendations for prediabetes screening by the American Diabetes Association focus nearly exclusively on adults who are overweight or obese as defined by body mass index until the patient meets the age-oriented screening at 45 years,” the authors said. “These guidelines . . . make it less likely that individuals with a healthy BMI will be screened, despite the increasing prevalence of prediabetes among this group.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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