Take the trouser test to find out if you are at risk from Type 2 diabetes

If you can’t fit into the trousers you wore at 21-years-old, you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a professor has warned.

Presenting data to a leading diabetes conference, Professor Roy Taylor from Newcastle University said that people’s waist should be the same size as it was when they were 21. If they could no longer fit into the same-sized trousers, they were “carrying too much fat”, he said.

The average waistline for men in England is 38.5in, according to the latest NHS Digital figures from 2019, up from 36.7in in 1993.

And among men aged 16 to 24 years old, the average trouser size was 34in in 2019, rising to to 39.6in among 45 to 54-year-olds.

Prof Taylor made the comments while presenting data at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes on a small study which found that people of normal weight with Type 2 diabetes can “achieve remission” by losing weight.

Eight of the 12 people studied “got rid” of their condition by losing 10-15 per cent of their body weight, Professor Taylor said.

Assumptions of what causes Type 2 diabetes

The participants, who all had the condition despite having a “normal” body mass index (BMI), managed to reduce the levels of fat in the liver and pancreas, and the activity of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas was deemed to be “restored”.

Professor Taylor, principal investigator, said there was an assumption that Type 2 diabetes had a different cause among those who weren’t overweight.

“This means that, unlike those who are overweight, those who are of normal weight aren’t usually advised to lose weight before being given diabetes drugs and insulin.

“Instead, there’s a tendency to start them on insulin and other medication at a much earlier stage,” he said.

The participants in the study, who had an average BMI of 24.5, followed a weight loss programme, which included a low-calorie liquid diet for two weeks, where each day they were only consuming 800 calories a day through soups and shakes.

Diabetes ‘caused by being too heavy for your own body’

This was followed by four to six weeks where they received support to maintain their new weight.

They completed three rounds of this programme until they lost 10-15 per cent of their body weight.

Trouser sizes through the years

After weight loss was achieved, scans showed reductions in the fat in the liver and eight of the 12 participants saw their Type 2 diabetes go into remission, which was defined as having blood sugar levels under control and patients no longer needing any medication.

Professor Taylor said although the results were preliminary, they demonstrate that diabetes is “not caused by obesity but by being too heavy for your own body”.

“It’s due to having too much fat in your liver and pancreas, whatever your BMI,” he added.

“In the liver, this excess fat prevents insulin from working normally. In the pancreas, it causes the beta cells to stop producing insulin.

“As a rule of thumb, your waist size should be the same now as when you were 21.

“If you can’t get into the same size trousers now, you are carrying too much fat and therefore at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, even if you aren’t overweight.”

Weight loss can lead to remission

Previous research has shown people with higher body weights can put their diabetes into remission through diet-induced weight loss.

NHS England is currently trialling a low-calorie diet programme for people with Type 2 diabetes who are overweight.

Dr Lucy Chambers, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, which funded this latest research, known as ReTUNE, said: “We welcome these early results from the ReTUNE study and eagerly look forward to the full results expected next year.

“We also look forward to working with the NHS to make sure this research informs the development of services and support for people with Type 2 diabetes. It is hoped that these findings will widen access to the NHS Type 2 remission programme.”

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