Study: Married couples share the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes

The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is shared by married couples, a study published in the journal Diabetologia suggested.

The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University in Denmark, found an association between the body mass index (BMI) of one spouse and the other spouse’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

“We have discovered that you can predict a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes based on his or her partner’s BMI. This means that you can tell whether a person has a heightened risk or not on the basis of the partner’s BMI,” explained Jannie Nielsen, the first author of the study.

Earlier studies have revealed that married couples frequently have similar body weight because they are more likely to share the same dietary and exercise habits. Thus, the research team wanted to look into the issue further and determine whether these findings had any influence on the risks of developing diabetes.

For the study, the research team looked at the data of more than 7,000 adults (3,649 men and 3,478 women) from the U.K. who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing cohort.

Based on the results, men had a particularly significant increase in the risk of Type 2 diabetes if their spouse was obese. The researcher explained that if a man with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 had a wife with BMI of 30 kg/m2, the husband would have a 21 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with other men of the same BMI. This suggested that men’s risk of having Type 2 diabetes increased in line with their spouse’s BMI, regardless of the man’s own BMI.

However, the link was not substantial when women’s BMIs were taken into account. The research team failed to determine the reason behind this, but they have a theory which involves who is in charge of the household. They believed that it is because women are responsible for deciding on what food to eat, and thus, women have more influence on their husband’s dietary habits.

The research team believed that the findings of their study could help in the early detection of Type 2 diabetes, especially for people who may not realize they are at risk.

Other risk factors for type 2 diabetes

There are other risk factors that increase a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes. These include the following:

  • Being overweight or obese – the more extra weight a person has, the more resistant the muscle and tissue become to one’s insulin hormone.
  • Lack of physical activity – Living a sedentary lifestyle and having extra weight are associated with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Through exercise, a person can reduce insulin resistance, which means that the muscle cells have more insulin receptors than fat cells. Engaging in regular physical activity also reduces blood sugar levels by increasing insulin’s effectiveness.
  • Poor diet – Poor eating habits, such as having too much fat in the diet, not having enough fiber, and having too many simple carbohydrates, contribute to the risk of Type 2 diabetes. (Related: Study: Diet determines whether you get type 2 diabetes, especially in older women.)
  • Family history – People who have diabetic family members are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Older age – The risk of Type 2 diabetes increases with age. As people age, the pancreas cannot pump insulin as well as it did before. The cells also age and they become more resistant to insulin.
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol levels – Having elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels are two main components of metabolic syndrome. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

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