Diabetes Forecast

Diabetes Risk Despite Healthy Weight

By Matt McMillen , , ,

Photo Credit: Rido81/BigStock

What to Know

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and you will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. That, at least, is the common wisdom. But the story is more complicated, according to Florida researchers who investigated why as many as a third of normal-weight American adults have prediabetes.

The Study

The researchers reviewed health survey data from 1,153 adults in England. All of them had a body mass index (BMI, a ratio of height to weight used to calculate body fat) between 18 and 25, which is considered the normal range. Nearly 60 percent were ages 20 to 44. The rest were older. None had been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. The participants answered questions about their weekly physical activity level. They also gave a blood sample, which was used to measure their A1C (the average level of blood glucose over the previous two to three months).

The Results

Despite their healthy weight, nearly half of the inactive adults over 44 years old had an A1C level above 5.7 percent, the threshold for prediabetes. Adults in that age group who got at least 30 minutes of exercise each week fared better: 28 percent had a high A1C result. The A1C levels of the adults under 45 did not differ significantly regardless of how much physical activity they got each week.


Your healthy weight may not protect you from prediabetes or diabetes. To help prevent type 2 diabetes, especially if you are 45 or older, you need to exercise, even if your weight falls into the normal range. This study could not prove that inactivity caused prediabetes or type 2 diabetes in inactive adults, but the authors do conclude that the more physical activity you get, the less likely you will be to have an elevated A1C. Not sure if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes? Take the American Diabetes Association Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. Answer a few simple questions, providing answers about your age, physical activity, and family history, to find out whether you may be more likely to develop diabetes. If you are, see your doctor and know that type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

Physical Activity and Abnormal Blood Glucose Among Healthy Weight Adults.” Arch G. Mainous III, PhD, Rebecca J. Tanner, MA, Stephen D. Anton, PhD, Ara Jo, MS, Maya C. Luetke, MSPH. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published online January 19, 2017. 56; 297–303

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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