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Health, Nutrition, Science

Research shows Skinny People at risk of Diabetes!

Fed up being told of the dangers of being fat? We all know it by now – if you’re overweight, you could be seriously harming your health. Well here’s some refreshing news – a new study from the Nutrition Journal has revealed that it’s not just obese people that are putting themselves at risk of Diabetes… but also the underweight

So Tough

A picture of health? Hardly - being underweight may increase the risk of Diabetes

Fifty years ago, Diabetes was pretty uncommon. Now that we’ve all settled into fine Western living – TVs, fast-food and automobiles to meet our transportation needs – we’re all apparently getting fatter – and with it rates of Diabetes have been soaring. Shockingly, nearly 1 in 10 American adults now have type 2 Diabetes – a condition that a healthier lifestyle could prevent.

Type 2 Diabetes is often caused by 'Western Living' - Many sufferers end up needing insulin injections.

A new study from the University of Luebeck in Germany has shown evidence that flies in the face our previously accepted ideas about Diabetes. Three groups of fit and healthy young adult men were tested to find out if any of them had the early hallmarks of Diabetes: ‘Obese’, ‘Normal weight’ and ‘Underweight’ men were admitted to a clinic where they underwent a “glucose clamp” procedure. This procedure uses lots of needles and intravenous fluid bags – but it is the most sensitive test to gauge whether someone is starting to develop Diabetes. By carefully controlling sugar and insulin levels in these subjects, the German team were able to measure each suject’s ‘glucose tolerance’.

As expected, the obese group had ‘impaired glucose tolerance’ – showing that they were probably on course for a life with type 2 Diabetes a few years down the line. What was more surprising was that the underweight men showed the same results! It seemed that both overweight and underweight groups were showing the signs of heading for a life of carb counting, Diabetes tablets and blood sugar tests.

What do these men have in common? Both may be at risk of Diabetes...

So while the Government make futile public health promotions to try to curb our appetite for cake and chocolate, this new research shows that there is another way of living we should avoid – being uber-skinny. The researchers concluded that a normal BMI of 20-25 was optimal for reducing your risk of health problems.

So, yes you have read that correctly – being a ‘normal weight’ is actually good for you (Shock- horror)! Sometimes science is great for reminding us of the common sense we were in danger of losing…

Perhaps fashion magazines should come with a disclaimer: "Trying to be this thin could seriously harm your health"!?


Thanks for reading – comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!


Read More:

Read more about type 2 Diabetes

Find out what your BMI is and why it might matter


Jauch-Chara K, Schmoller A, & Oltmanns KM (2011). Impaired glucose tolerance in healthy men with low body weight. Nutrition journal, 10 (1) PMID: 21299854

Image source for Fat Man and Thin Man courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons (follow links for photographer’s info)

About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...


4 thoughts on “Research shows Skinny People at risk of Diabetes!

  1. How surprising is the recent study about underweight people having the same results obese when given impaired glucose intolerance test ? Is this due to poor food choices for both underweight as well as obese?

    Posted by Jenny@diabetesabcs.com | March 20, 2011, 3:28 am
    • Hi Jenny! Great point.
      The authors of the study concluded that – any deviation from normal BMI affects glucose tolerance. They didn’t look at dietary choices, only BMI – but I think you could well be right. I know several people who are underweight and eat an extremely unbalanced diet…

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | March 20, 2011, 8:32 am
  2. This article is invalid… some people are built smaller there for their bmi will be naturally lower, the bottom line is eat a healthy diet and exercise, given that if you follow heathy habits you will be a heathy person regardless of size. your body is your temple, treat it with respect. 🙂

    Posted by siba burck | September 6, 2012, 3:51 pm
    • For an individual, BMI can only be used as a rough guide (as you point out, people are of different builds/muscle bulk, etc).
      However, for large scale studies, such as this one, using using the BMI can give meaningful results.
      Probably more useful (both in statistical terms and for individuals) is also incorporating the waist:hip ratio.

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | September 6, 2012, 3:57 pm

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