Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Those with a family history of type 2 diabetes can still reduce their risk for developing the disease by maintaining a healthy weight, a new study has found.
In new research published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, an international team of experts on diabetes and cardiovascular health found that a 1 kg/m squared reduction in body mass index, or BMI, in non-overweight individuals reduced reduced their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 37 percent.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes BMI as an "indicator of high body fatness" that can be used to "screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems."
BMI is calculated by taking a person's weight in kilograms dividing it by their square of height in meters.
"These findings suggest that all individuals can substantially reduce their type 2 diabetes risk through weight loss," study co-author Manuel Rivas, assistant professor of biomedical data science at Stanford University, said in a statement.
According to the CDC, as many as 30 million Americans have diabetes. Some 90 percent have type 2 diabetes.
A family history of type 2 diabetes is considered a risk factor for the disease, but lifestyle choices -- including poor diet and lack of exercise -- can also increase a person's risk for developing insulin resistance, which is its key trait. Type 2 diabetes is most often diagnosed in older adults, unlike type 1 diabetes, which is a genetic disease and thus strikes children.
For the PLOS Medicine study, Rivas and his colleagues enrolled nearly 300,000 British adults between 40 and 69 years of age, using data from the UK Biobank, a storehouse of blood, urine and saliva samples available for analysis. Nearly 5 percent of the participants had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
According to the researchers, type 2 diabetes risk is associated with higher BMI, a family history of the disease and genetic risk factors. They noted that in people with a BMI less than 25 who were not overweight and had no family history of type 2 diabetes, a 1 kg/m squared reduction in BMI led to a 1.37-fold reduction in disease prevalence.
Obese individuals with a family history of the disease were also able to reduce their diabetes risk by 21 percent by reducing their BMI.
The authors of the study note that weight-loss interventions have shown demonstrable benefit for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in high-risk and prediabetic individuals but have not been well-studied in people at lower risk for the disease.
While the findings are regarded as potentially significant, the authors emphasize that more research as needed -- particularly since their study didn't study specific weight-loss interventions.
Although the new analysis "can determine that lower lifetime BMI is protective against diabetes, that does not necessarily imply weight loss later in life, after carrying excess weight for decades, would have the same result," Rivas said.