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Slim-hipped women more likely to develop diabetes

diabetes and hips

Women with wider hips are less likely to develop diabetes, a new study claims.

A genetic variant that controls where fat is stored in women also has an impact on their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

The variant regulates a number of genes controlling how and where women store fat. Different versions of this variant can cause fat-storing cells to function differently. 

‘Pear-shaped’ bodies

While this does not impact on a woman’s overall body weight or their BMI, it does directly affect their hip circumference, according to the research by the Genomics of Regulatory Variation Research Group at King's College London. 

Kerrin Small, Head of the Research Group and lead author, says past studies have shown a connection between women who carry weight on their hips and diabetes levels. 

Women with so-called ‘pear-shaped’ bodies – those with more fat on their hips – are less likely to develop diabetes than women with smaller hips. 

Dr Small says a single genetic variation can lead to women having larger hips, which could effectively protect them from diabetes.

Mother’s inheritance

The genetic variant is close to a gene (KLF14) that regulates fat tissue. The KLF14 gene is inherited from the mother. 

Past studies have found a small, yet statistically significant connection between the genetic variant and Type 2 diabetes. 

But when they look at cases in which both the KLF14 gene and the variant were inherited from the mother, the connection became stronger. 

Next steps

Dr. Small believes that by identifying all the genes involved in diabetes risk, a more effective treatment can be created for these groups. 

The next step for the research team is to investigate why the variant only seems to affect women, with a number of theories being proposed. 

These include women having higher baseline levels of KLF14 than men, or the possibility of a different, sex-specific protein interacting with KLF14.


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