Overweight people with a large waist are as likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life as those who are obese, according to an international study.
Researchers say that while people who are overweight but “pear-shaped” have a relatively low risk of the disease, those who carry the extra pounds around their waist run similar risks as those who are seriously overweight.
Waist sizes of more than 102cm or 40in in men and bigger than 88cm or 34in in women are classed as large.
Dr Claudia Langenberg, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) epidemiology unit in Cambridge, which led the study, said: “Type 2 diabetes is a serious and increasingly common disease.
“More than a third of the UK adult population is overweight and at increased risk of diabetes, but they are not systematically monitored for this risk.
“Our findings suggest that if their waist circumference is large, they are just as likely to develop the condition as if they were obese.
“We do not suggest replacing BMI as a core health indicator, but our results show measuring waist size in overweight patients allows doctors to ‘zoom in' on this large population group and identify those at highest risk of diabetes.”
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition which occurs when the body fails to produce enough of the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, or when the body's cells do not react properly to insulin.
The study followed more than 340,000 people from eight European countries.
Researchers found that 7% of men and 4.4% of women who were overweight, with a body mass index between 25 and 29.9kg/m2, and had a large waist, went on to develop diabetes within 10 years. This risk was equivalent to, or in some cases higher than, obese participants (BMI above 30).