Study author James Smith of Rand Corp., University College London and the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London linked larger waist sizes -- not just obesity -- to higher rates of diabetes in the United States versus people of similar age and gender in England.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, finds despite similar standards of living, middle-aged and older Americans accumulate more fat around the mid-section than their English peers.
American men had waists that on average were 3 centimeters, or a little more than 1 inch, larger than their English peers. Waists of American women averaged 5 centimeters, or almost 2 inches, bigger than English women. American women were significantly more likely to face higher risk because of their waist size when compared with English women -- 69 percent to 56 percent, respectively.
"Americans carry more fat around their middle sections than the English, and that was the single factor that explained most of the higher rate of diabetes seen in the United States, especially among American women," Smith says in a statement. "Waist size is the missing new risk factor we should be studying."