How diabetes is related to obesity?
Most people who are familiar with Type 2 diabetes are also aware of the link between the condition and being overweight. The reality is that this link is becoming more and more prevalent, particularly in the United States, where estimates point to over 100 million adults living with obesity – that’s approximately two out of every five adults in America!
So, what in the world is diabesity? While not an official medical diagnosis, the Cleveland Clinic states that “diabesity” is a term being used to describe individuals who have both Type 2 diabetes and who are also battling obesity.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that develops, usually in adulthood, in which the body becomes unable to properly produce or process insulin, the hormone produced in the pancreas that’s necessary for the body’s cells to transform blood glucose (sugar) into the energy we all need to function properly. Because the cells can’t use glucose and, thereby, remove it from the bloodstream, the glucose begins to build up and, eventually, leads to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
How are obesity and Type 2 diabetes linked?
Being obese dramatically increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, it’s believed to account for up to 85% of the risk! It also causes instances of Type 2 diabetes to worsen at a faster rate once the condition has developed.
This happens because, as described earlier, when you have diabetes, your cells resist letting insulin move glucose into them – a condition known as insulin resistance. In a healthy body, as blood sugar builds up the body begins to store any excess sugar in the liver. However, when someone is obese, the liver is already filled with fat and there’s simply no room to store that excess blood sugar. Imagine a refrigerator that’s been freshly filled with food (hopefully diabetes healthy items!). Now, suddenly you want to fit a giant watermelon into the space. You just can’t do it because there’s no room and that’s the same concept here.
What happens when the liver can’t accept excess blood sugar? The body, sensing a rise in blood sugar, starts producing more and more insulin to try to break it down. But because the body can’t effectively use insulin or move glucose into the liver, blood sugar continues to rise. The pancreas goes into overdrive to produce more and more insulin, and, unable to keep up, it eventually wears down and starts producing less insulin.
This is why diabetes develops more often in those who are obese and will likely worsen rapidly if nothing is done to drop weight – thus the name Diabesity.
What happens when a person drops weight?
Most often, very good things! Just as carrying too much weight can dramatically worsen diabetes, losing weight can dramatically improve things.
For example, those who are obese and diagnosed with diabetes might find themselves requiring two or more medications as the condition quickly worsens, including insulin delivered by syringe, pen or pump. However, if they can manage to shed some of those unhealthy pounds, it can lead to a decrease in the need for medication. In fact, it’s possible for those living with Type 2 diabetes to go off medication entirely and, instead, manage the condition solely with lifestyle changes to their diet and physical activity regimen. This will most definitely not happen, however, when obesity remains part of the diabetes management equation.
How much weight does a person need to lose?
The ultimate goal is to get down to a healthy weight based upon an individual’s height, sex at birth, and age. However, this isn’t going to happen overnight for someone who is already battling obesity. Losing weight is a difficult task that takes time and a good amount of effort. In fact, if you’re obese, it’s a smart idea to speak with a nutritionist or ask your doctor about ways to effectively lose weight using a program that fits your schedule, needs and lifestyle. This makes it more likely you’ll stick with the program.
Regardless, it’s important to give things a try because losing as little as 5% or 10% of your total body weight can start improving diabetes management or lower your risk of developing the disease. This really isn’t a lot of weight for most people. For example, if you’re weight is 250 pounds, losing just 5% of that weight – or 12.5 pounds – can start improving your diabetes health. Better yet, as you lose more, the benefits on your health will continue to rise.
In other words, step one is not about reaching the end goal of a healthy weight immediately. It’s about finding a plan that helps you gradually and healthily chip away at those excess pounds. It will not always be easy, and it will not happen instantly, but the work is worth it because the more effectively you manage your diabetes and health, the lower your risk becomes for serious complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetic nerve damage, and other issues you’re much better off avoiding.
Does everyone who is obese develop diabetes?
The answer is no. Not everyone who is living with obesity will automatically develop diabetes, and the truth is science is not entirely sure why some people develop the disease and others don’t, though risk factors such as family history, race, diet, and stress level are known to be contributors.
What is known, however, cannot be overstated. If you are obese, according to the Cleveland Clinic, your chances of developing diabetes are six times greater than someone who is able to maintain a healthy weight. That’s certainly an eye-opening statistic.
Can you avoid or better manage Diabesity?
While you cannot avoid the risk of developing diabetes entirely, you can avoid diabesity. But there’s only one way to do it and that’s to lose those excess pounds. Losing weight can help you avoid a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis altogether, or it can help you better manage your condition if you’ve already been diagnosed.
For many, the reservations and questions begin with, “where do I start?” The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has a great answer – small.
Don’t fall into the trap of expecting big results right away. Instead, think of reasonable steps and be prepared to take things slowly. Some small steps you can take to lose weight include:
– Commit to going for a walk after dinner each day
– Commit to eating a low-calorie, healthy breakfast everyday
– Involve family or friends who can provide support and help keep you accountable
– Log everything you eat each day, including serving size
– Weigh yourself once a week
– Limit TV viewing to less than 10 hours per week
– Work with a nutritionist and/or fitness trainer to develop realistic programs
Diabesity may not be an official medical condition, but the undeniable link between diabetes and obesity is one we all need to focus on if we want to put a dent in the growing number of Type 2 diabetes cases being diagnosed in the United States and around the world.
It’s really this simple.
If there is one thing a person who is obese can do to lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, it’s losing weight. If there’s one thing someone who is obese and already diagnosed with diabetes can do to improve outcomes and reduce the need for medication, it’s losing weight.
We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.