BMI just as effective in assessing type 2 diabetes risk in overweight children

For years, body mass index, or BMI, has been the gold standard for diagnosing a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, in recent years, research has suggested that waist circumference may provide a more accurate assessment.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has confirmed that neither testing method offers any real benefit over the other when it comes to predicting a young person's future type 2 diabetes risk.

The findings are particularly important, as the childhood obesity epidemic continues to worsen. More young people than ever before are now facing a future risk of type 2 diabetes due to excess weight. Identifying which children are the most likely to develop the condition is key to initiating preventative lifestyle changes.

For the study, researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed survey data collected from 1,571 adolescents between 1999 and 2002. The results showed that BMI was just as strongly associated with insulin resistance - the first symptom of type 2 diabetes - as was waist circumference.

The researchers said their findings could provide valuable information to pediatricians who are unsure of how to assess future health risk in the growing number of obese children they treat.

"There is increasing interest in measuring waist circumference in children to assess for chronic disease risk," said Joyce Lee, MD, the leader of the investigation. "Providers may be unsure of whether they should be measuring body mass index, weight circumference or both to determine those risks."

She added that waist circumference has gained much attention as a measure of diabetes risk for good reason. It measures the amount of fat a person carries around their midsection, which is something that has been directly linked to cardio-metabolic risk. Furthermore, BMI is simply a calculation of a person's weight relative to their height, which may be of different value in various people.

However, the results of the study show clearly that waist circumference is no better predictor of type 2 diabetes risk in obese children.