How can I be diabetic? I am a skinny Indian!

This article is meant more for those living in South Asia or have a South Asian lifestyle (of being primarily lactoovo-vegetarian), but it applies to anyone that is “skinny fat”. But let me clarify something, Ajoy is not diabetic nor was he when in 2007 this photo was taken. I am only using the photo as an illustration to prove a point. In my article on diabetes and sugar, I made the argument that fat, and not sugar is the culprit behind the diabetic epidemic. When I said “fat”, most people read it as “obese”. I am sure they would be surprised if they found out that they are pre-diabetic or even diabetic! Their first reaction would be exactly what the title says, “How about me? I am skinny with only a small amount of belly fat”!

While on the surface (literally!) the point is well made that there is not so much fat that it could lead to diabetes, but the cause is not skin deep. One needs to look at visceral fat (aka belly fat, love handles, etc). This problem is very pronounced in the Indian subcontinent and I’d call it the “Indian dilemma”- seemingly skinny vegetarians getting diabetes.

A simple test can demonstrate if you fall under this category. All you need is a measuring tape. Stand tall against a wall, and have someone measure your height. Here comes the hard part – inhale deeply  and measure your belly, right where it is the maximum girth, usually at the navel. Divide your girth by your height. The number should be less than half. If not, you are at risk of developing diabetes. It has been repeatedly shown that belly fat, especially among anyone living or having a South Asian lifestyle (not just Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis, Bangladeshis, etc.) has a strong correlation with developing diabetes in later life.

Ajoy has written about the skinny fat phenomenon as he too was in that category not too long ago. Read his article about simple ways to stay away from falling victim to diabetes. In addition, look for other articles on this site as well as others about eating well balanced plant-based foods.

Science Says

References quoted here are obviously retrospective, observational studies. Therefore, one must be cautious about attribution of diabetes to belly fat. Causational would mean diabetes is caused by belly fat; untrue. These studies do not show that. All they do is provide us a correlation; in other words, people with belly fat may progress to having diabetes. 

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