There’s a Strange Link Between Your Weight & Your Spouse’s
Back in July, a CDC report estimated that 100 million people in the United States—either have diabetes, or are at risk for developing diabetes. A new study presented this week at the 2017 European Association for the Study of Diabetes suggests that there’s one way to figure out if a man is at risk for Type 2 diabetes: determining if their wife is obese.
“There is the regular question — whether your parents or a sibling have diabetes — and this study calls attention that there are [also] other connections within the family [for diabetes],” lead author Adam Hulman of Aarhus University in Denmark said.
Hulman and his team took 3,500 middle-aged, heterosexual British couples and tracked their weight and health every 2.5 years between 1998 and 2015. For every five points a woman gained in BMI, her husband saw a 21% jump in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. For some reason, the reverse — a man’s higher BMI increasing his wife’s risk of Type 2 diabetes — wasn’t true, although researchers couldn’t explain why that was the case.
On a fundamental level, this data makes sense. Couples share every aspect of their lives together — from eating dinner to sleeping in the same bed to bickering over what to watch on Netflix in the same house. If one partner polishes off a bag of potato chips for dinner and is glued to the couch every night, it’s more likely than not that the other one will have the same habits as well.
But Hulman’s group had another explanation for why men were developing Type 2 diabetes in concert with their obese wives. Because the study looked at couples of a specific age group in the United Kingdom, Hulman postulated that the results could stem from the fact that “women were more responsible for [being] the ones who determined the diet of the family or the household,” he said. Hulman’s theory is, well, a little sexist — not all wives cook for their husbands, and even if they do, they’re certainly not solely responsible for ruining their waistlines — but there’s a grain of truth to it as well. If you’re cohabiting and your partner has a preference for awful food on a daily basis, it’s more likely than not that you will develop some sort of health problem as well.
We’ve known about the link between Type 2 diabetes and obesity for years, but Hulman’s research confirms that one partner’s health issues can possibly feed into another partner’s disease. In a press release, Hulman suggests that if a wife is obese, her husband should be tested for Type 2 diabetes, but the real takeaway here is that a person’s health is influenced by that of their partner, and that has real consequences down the line.
The optimistic, hidden part of this study is that the reverse is true as well: When one partner starts going to the gym and eating fruits and veggies, the other will probably follow suit. So if your partner is struggling with their health, encourage them to join you on a health journey. Sure, it helps the two of you get fit, but it also works to keep you healthy, too.
Originally published on menshealth.com