Newcastle University professor links jean size with diabetes, causes controversy

Recent comments by Professor Roy Taylor have been making headlines, for potentially contributing to a 'fat-shaming' culture. Anthony Welsh reports on the criticisms, and Prof. Taylor's response.

Anthony Welsh
9th October 2021
Apparently, If you can still fit into the jeans you’re wearing in your early 20s in the future, you might just be in luck. 

The Guardian reported comments made by Newcastle University's Roy Taylor that caused controversy this week, suggesting that people are at risk for developing type-2 diabetes if they can “no longer fit into the pair of jeans they wore aged 21”.

The comments regarding trouser size came as Taylor was presenting data to the annual European Association for the Study of Diabetes, following an early study that found that people of normal weight with type 2 diabetes could “achieve remission” by losing weight.

The study conducted by Taylor earlier this year involved 12 participants who lived with type 2 diabetes despite having “normal” BMIs (24.5, on average). Participants were put on an 800-calorie-per-day diet until they lost 10 to 15% of their body weight. After weight loss, scans showed reductions in fat around the liver and eight of the 12 participants had their type 2 diabetes go into remission

Following online backlash and criticism, Professor Taylor addressed his comments Wednesday during an interview hosted on the EASD YouTube channel stating: “just to clarify that message which has been carried by newspaper headlines - newspapers tend to pick up things that are perhaps in an improper context. For people who have type 2 diabetes but have a normal or near-normal BMI, they can get rid of it”.

The issue wasn’t with the science behind Taylor’s finding, which is still a topic of debate, but with the original article headline and problematic phrasing in relation to trouser size. Users on Twitter responded to Taylor’s comments by sharing their own experience with eating disorders in their early 20s, with many highlighting how changes in the body through ageing, hormones and pregnancy can also have an impact on waist circumference.

Memes inevitably followed, with users posting images of the jeans they wore in their early 20s:

Taylor did however state in his original comments that jean size was a “rule of thumb”, inferring that they aren’t a hard and fast rule for all.

Diabetes UK who funded the study has warned that the research is still in the early stages, with full results expected to be published next year.

Roy Taylor is a Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust and is a world-leading expert on type 2 diabetes. He has been conducting research on type 2 diabetes since 1978, founding the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre in 2006.

Image source: Piqsels

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AUTHOR: Anthony Welsh
Second year Computer Science student | Newcastle

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