April 25, 2017 By Elizabeth McCammon

The more weight you carry around your middle, the greater your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. But why do some people always seem to gain weight in one particular area, such as their middle, while others have their weight more evenly distributed throughout their body?

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England may have found the answer in our genes, particularly a genetic variation associated with insulin resistance (a condition in which the body’s cells and tissues do not respond properly to the effects of insulin, which can then lead to type 2 diabetes). They looked at the DNA of 200,000 people looking for links to insulin resistance, and then did body scans of 12,000 participants to see where in the body they store fat.

They found that having a greater number of DNA variations for insulin resistance was associated with having lower amounts of fat in the legs and arms. These individuals are more likely to carry weight around their middle, which increases their risk for developing insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease.

The results, published in the November 2016 online issue of Nature Genetics, help explain why people who have similar eating habits and levels of physical activity may store excess fat in different parts of their body—and, in turn, have different risks for developing diabetes.

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