GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Obesity and diabetes can sometimes go hand and hand. The higher amount of fat a person has, the higher the chance they can develop diabetes. But new research shows the measurement that doctors are using to calculate their risk may not be so accurate.
Doctors say it's an epidemic. More than 84 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes, but many do not know it.
Arch Mainous, PhD, a professor of health services research at the University of Florida, told Ivanhoe, "There are a lot of people being missed. Six, seven, eight million people are probably being missed."
That's because body mass index, or BMI, the measurement doctors use to determine if someone is overweight or obese, is missing people who are of normal weight but are prediabetic.
"A lot of people who are healthy weight may not be so healthy," continued Mainous.
Researchers studied data on adults 20 and over with a healthy BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. He found that one in five adults between the ages of 20 and 44 who had a healthy weight met the blood glucose criteria for prediabetes. For people 45 or older, it was one in three.
Mainous explained, "As people get older, they tend to lose lean muscle mass, and they are at the exact same BMI. They get really skinny arms and really skinny legs and get more weight."
And that weight is around their waist.
"It moves them so that they really are no different than people who are overweight," detailed Mainous.
"Once you hit the age of 45, you should be always talking to your doctor about getting screened," said Ryan Sanders, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.
Especially if you have a family history of diabetes, your waistline is at least 40 inches for men, and at least 35 inches for women. Also if you are a high-risk ethnicity, such as African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.
Mainous exclaimed, "If we don't find people who are at the high risk of developing prediabetes and do something about them, then we are just waiting for a lot of people to develop diabetes."
Fifteen to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes within five years. Those diagnosed with diabetes will spend 2.3 times more on health care than if they didn't have the disease. The CDC has a free test for anyone who wants to know their risk of prediabetes.
Diabetes Risk: New Research on Obesity