It’s been believed by the public and media that recent weight gain may be an indicator of a patient’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes. However, a new study found that most people who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were “stably overweight,” meaning they maintained a stable overweight body mass index (BMI) for years before diagnosis.

More than 6,700 participants, who were initially free of diabetes, were followed for an average of 14 years during the study. Type 2 diabetes developed in 654 of the participants and revealed three distinct classes.

What they found in the three classes:

“Stable Overweight” participants (94 percent) who had a relatively constant BMI level throughout the entire study.

“Progressive Weight Gainers” (26 people) exhibited patterns of consistent weight gain before the diabetes diagnosis.

“Persistently Obese” participants (15 people) were severely obese throughout the whole 18 years before diabetes diagnosis.

Results show that the development of type 2 diabetes may not be as clear-cut as once believed. It leads us to believe that not all diabetics are obese and those who are obese are not all diabetics. “These results suggest that strategies focusing on small weight reductions for the entire population may be more beneficial than predominantly focusing on weight loss for high-risk individuals,” the study says.

The majority of people developing type 2 diabetes did not have substantial weight gain prior to the diagnosis and were stably overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult for some; it’s important to work with you doctor to build a balanced diet and exercise regimen. Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York says, “Even a small amount of weight loss helps reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. A weight loss of 10 percent of your body weight significantly reduces your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease."

To learn more on this topic:
How Often – and How Much – Should Someone with Diabetes Eat?
Weight Loss and Diabetes: A Balancing Act
9 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight