Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is the result of a faulty lifestyle, like making poor choices in diet and not maintaining regular exercise. Men and women have different hormones and lifestyle choices, so some diseases are known to be more common in women, while others are more common in men. But, what about diabetes?
Well, when it comes to differences in gender, a lot is also dependent on the country. The data can vary significantly among geographical locations. However, in the western world, it seems that men are more likely to develop diabetes as compared to women. The latest research indicates that men are actually almost 26 percent more likely to develop the disease.
In one of the latest research efforts carried out by Men’s Health Forum Charity, it was found that one in ten men in the UK has type 2 diabetes. The study also seems to indicate that in the UK, men are more prone to various complications related to diabetes. The report said that in the UK, almost 70 percent of those who see a healthcare professional due to foot related problems like symptoms of peripheral neuritis or ulcers are men, which also means that men are almost twice more likely to be amputated when compared to females.
Data also highlights some of alarming facts, like men are getting diabetes at a much lower BMI as compared to women. Further, men seem to visit medical institutions less often. Meaning that men are more likely to not be aware of their condition. In fact, the whole health system is ill-prepared to serve the working-age men, something that needs to be changed on urgent basis.
We have to understand that diabetes is a highly preventable ailment. The earlier one discovers that they're at risk, the higher are the chances that it could be reversed through dietary and lifestyle modifications. This is why researchers are calling for men to have frequent check-up; they are recommending that check ups for diabetes should be promoted at football matches or other settings where more men are likely to gather.
Although most countries have declared diabetes as a national emergency, no one seems to appreciate the gender differences that diabetes tends to have. Not only are men more likely to develop diabetes, but both genders have entirely different attitudes towards the disease. Even prevention measures for both the sexes would differ for metabolic disorders, including diabetes.
Costs of management of diabetes and related complications are skyrocketing. Thus, the NHS in the UK estimates that diabetes is costing it more than £10 billion each year. While in the US, direct costs are estimated to be around 160-170 billion USD. These costs do not include the damages due to the lost productivity.
The only way to reduce this burden is early diagnosis and lifestyle modification in those at risk of developing diabetes.
There is some good news too; research shows that once diagnosed with either diabetes or prediabetes, men are more likely to tackle the disease actively as compared to women. In fact, men are at a lower risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, and are more likely to be energetic and have a positive outlook.
Recent research has also shown that men may benefit significantly from the low carb diet for diabetes prevention and management. Men also seem to benefit more from various weight loss programs.
Since the recognition of epidemics of diabetes multiple large-scale diabetes prevention studies have been carried out in various continents and countries. However, most of them did not try to find out the gender differences.
The Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study was among the first large-scale nationwide studies, which led the basis of many other studies in other countries. It reported better outcomes of lifestyle modification in men as compared to women. Thus in the study, there was 63% reduction in the incidence of diabetes in men versus 54% in women with intensive lifestyle modification. But the study did not look deep into the reasons for such difference. It did not look into differences between the adherence to intensive lifestyle modification. Thus it could not be said whether this difference was due to better compliance with lifestyle prescription in men, or if it was purely due to hormonal/gender differences.
Similarly, the U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) also demonstrated that men benefited more lifestyle intervention than women.
Thus, to understand the gender differences Perreault et al. carried out large-scale, multi-center diabetes prevention program (DPP) study. The study had more women as compared to men (almost twice as more). Men participating in the study had worse indicators, they were older, had larger waist circumference, higher fasting blood glucose level, and higher calorie intake. Men also had a higher mean blood pressure and lower HDL cholesterol.
During the first year of DPP, not much gender difference was found in those who lost less than 3% of body weight after intensive lifestyle interventions. However, when they compared men and women who lost more than 3% of body weight, they found that men had much more improvement as compared to women. The study also found that in a group with weight loss more than 7 percent; men had a more profound decrease in 2-hour glucose, triglycerides, and A1C levels.
Thus, this study by Perreault et al. demonstrated that men are more likely to adhere to intensive lifestyle modification, and they are also more likely to benefit from weight loss.
From the result of various clinical studies and epidemiological surveys, it could be concluded that men are more likely to develop diabetes in western countries and the US. Men seem to develop diabetes at a younger age, and at a less BMI as compared to women. When it comes to the complications, men also seem to be at higher risk, be it neural, cardiovascular, or other health risks.
On the brighter side, men seem to benefit more from intensive lifestyle modification. Not only do men seem to stick better to such interventions, but the incidence of diabetes fall more sharply in men when losing the body weight at more than 7 percent.
Hence, there is a need to understand and appreciate the gender differences in diabetes. There is also a need to make changes to the healthcare system accordingly.
1. Woodfield J. Men at greater risk of type 2 diabetes compared to women, study reports. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2017/nov/men-at-greater-risk-of-type-2-diabetes-compared-to-women,-study-reports-96726426.html. Published November 21, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2018.
2. Drive ADA 2451 C, Arlington S 900, Va 22202 1-800-Diabetes. The Cost of Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/news-events/cost-of-diabetes.html. Accessed January 18, 2018.
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