Researchers say they have discovered why men may be more likely than women to develop type 2 diabetes – they are biologically more susceptible. Men need to gain far less weight than women to develop the condition, study findings suggest.
The Glasgow University team found men developed the disease at a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than women.
They believe distribution of the body fat is important – men tend to store it in their liver and around the waist.
Women, meanwhile, have greater amounts of ‘safe’ subcutaneous fat stored on the thighs and hips, for example.
This means women need to accumulate more fat overall than men to develop the harmful fat deposits linked with diabetes, the researchers explain in the journal Diabetologia.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by too much sugar in the blood which occurs when the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels in several different organs becomes disturbed. The condition is linked to excess fat in some of these organs such as the liver and muscles.
Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, who led the research, said: “Previous research has indicated that middle-aged men are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than women and one possible explanation is that men have to gain less weight than women to develop the condition.
“In other words, men appear to be at higher risk for diabetes.”
For the study, the researchers analysed data from 51,920 men and 43,137 women in Scotland with diabetes, taking into consideration body weight and obesity using the BMI measurement based on height and weight.
The results showed women developed diabetes at a heavier BMI than men – the mean BMI at diabetes diagnosis in men was 31.83 but 33.69 in women.
The researchers say this helps explain why men have higher rates of diabetes in many parts of the world.
Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “It is worrying that men develop type 2 diabetes at a higher rate than their female counterparts. Research like this will help us understand reasons why and provide greater insight into what we can do to improve prevention of type 2 diabetes.
“Diabetes UK is calling on both men and women to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by losing any excess weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet and by taking regular physical activity.”