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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    I am not overweight but does my tummy fat put me at risk for diabetes?

    I am not overweight by the scales- carry all my weight in tummy .

    I am a vegan and worried about an increased risk of diabetes.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Lisa Renn


    Lisa is an APD with 12 years experience, specialising in helping people identify and change habits that impact negatively on their health. Inspiring change, Lisa … View Profile

    Hi there, carrying excess weight on your stomach can be a risk for diabetes. Research has defined waist circumference measures that increase your risk.
    For women your risk increases once your waist circumference goes over 80cm and high risk is over 88cm. For men the risk increases with a waist circumference over 90cm and high risk over 100cm.

    If you fall into a high risk category but you are a healthy weight then regular exercise as well as healthy eating is the key. 

    A family history of diabetes will further add to diabetes risk.

    Assuming you eat a healthy vegan diet exercise will be very important for you- as it is for anyone wanting to prevent a chronic illness.
    Good luck!

  • 1


    Lyn Christian


    As a Naturopath and Nutritionist I am passionate about the promotion of health using functional foods to correct nutrient imbalances.All health conditions need to be … View Profile

    As stated, research has defined waist circumference measures that increase your risk for diabetes.
    For women your risk increases once your waist circumference goes over 80cm and high risk is over 88cm. For men the risk increases with a waist circumference over 90cm and high risk over 100cm. If you are not overweight according to bathroom scales,but are carrying excess weight around the middle ,visit a nutritionist with  a Bioimpedance scale to check your visceral fat. Visceral fat is intra-abdominal fat which sits around the organs and is a major contributor to developing diabetes.It affects glucose and cholesterol production.

  • Sharon Brooks


    Sharon, a Registered Nutritionist RNutr and Food Scientist runs a nutrition consulting business that specialises in proactive nutrition and disease prevention.Sharon runs corporate, school and … View Profile

    Lisa and Lyn have provided beneficial responses. A further comment is that scales alone are not a good indication of health status. Waist circumference and waist to hip ratio are better indicators as are the results from a bio-impedance. It may be worthwhile arranging an assessment so you can confirm if there is an issue.
    Abdominal fat is the most metabolically active and can increase risk of heart disease. So it would be of benefit to understand if dietary modifications are needed. A vegan diet can be healthy as long as you are consuming sufficient good carbs and fat. Legumes, tempeh and tofu are important protein sources as are nuts and seeds. Consuming these foods with plenty of fresh vegetables may assist with a reduction in fat stores. I have worked with many vegans that consume too many veggie pasties, so be mindful that vegan does always mean healthy. You may benefit from a nutritional consult, depending on what your current food consumption patterns are.

    All the best with it.  

  • Dr Kevin Lee

    Endocrinologist, Nuclear Medicine Physician

    Consultant Physician in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Nuclear Medicine. I am on Twitter @dr_kevinlee. I am on Facebook I help patients with obesity, diabetes, thyroid, … View Profile

    Very good answers above, thank you.

    I would like to reiterate that abdominal fat is metabolically adverse. Both liver fat and visceral fat lead to increased insulin resistance which is the pathway to getting type 2 diabetes.

    In many trials, excess abdominal fat has been shown to be more predictive of risk of heart attack than weight or BMI alone.  

    Some ethnicities, such as South Asian, South East and East Asians have greater propensity of depositing fat in the abdomen so a lower waist circumference cut-off should probably apply.

    It is prudent to recommend that you see your GP in the first instance to further assess your metabolic and diabetes risk.


    Dr Kevin Lee

    Consultant Physician Endocrinologist

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