The Link Between Obesity and Diabetes

Sep 01, 2019

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About 110 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to data from the CDC, and many of those people don’t even know it.

About 110 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to data from the CDC, and many of those people don’t even know it. Millions more have a condition called “prediabetes,” which means it’s likely they’ll go on to develop diabetes within five years unless they take steps to prevent it. Many of those with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are overweight or obese, underscoring a link between the two conditions that’s been known for years. In fact, being obese increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to seven times. And if your body mass index (BMI) is over 35, you’re 20 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than someone who’s at a healthy weight.

Researchers and doctors know there’s a direct relationship between obesity and diabetes. But until recently, not much was known about that link. Now, researchers are beginning to understand the mechanisms that connect these two serious medical conditions, and that just might open the doors to new treatments and interventions in the future.

How diabetes “happens”

There are two main types of diabetes — type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys specific cells in your pancreas. These cells produce a hormone called insulin that helps your body break down sugars or glucose. Every cell in your body needs glucose for energy production, and when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough (or any) insulin, your body can’t metabolize glucose and your cells and organs don’t get the glucose they need to function and thrive. Type 1 diabetes typically begins in childhood or the teen years, which is why it’s sometimes called “juvenile” diabetes. More recently, type 1 diabetes has become more common among adults, as well. There’s no cure for type 1 diabetes; instead, people who have this type of diabetes must use insulin injections to make up for the insulin their bodies can’t produce. They also need to follow a special diet that’s low in sugars to prevent glucose from building up in their bloodstream.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease, and it’s the type that’s associated with obesity. In type 2 diabetes, either your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or your body doesn’t use insulin the way it’s supposed to in order to create energy for your cells and organs. Type 2 used to be much more common among adults, but as the rates of childhood obesity have risen, it’s become a lot more common among kids and teens.

"Diabesity": How obesity and diabetes are connected

The link between diabetes and obesity is so well-established, researchers refer to it as “diabesity.” Although the specific ways these two conditions interact isn’t completely understood, recent research has uncovered a number of ways the two might be interrelated.

Most researchers agree the link probably involves both a decrease in insulin production and an increase in insulin resistance. People who are obese tend to be more resistant to insulin — that is, insulin isn’t processed or used as efficiently. Some researchers think that’s because the fatty tissue acts like an extra organ, releasing hormones that interfere with both the production and metabolism of insulin. Others think the fat cells may release toxins that are lethal to other cells that process insulin or that inflammation associated with obesity might disrupt insulin production in the pancreas.

Recently, researchers discovered that in people who are obese, insulin isn’t able to pass through the blood vessels as easily as it can in people who aren’t obese. When insulin can’t get into the bloodstream, it can’t be used to break down and metabolize glucose, which means sugar builds up in the blood and organs and tissues don’t get the nutrients they need to make energy. The bottom line is this: While researchers aren't sure how obesity and diabetes interact, they know there's a link — and that link may prove helpful in future treatment. But for now, losing excess weight is the best way to break the bond between obesity and diabetes risk.

Decrease your diabetes-related risks: We can help

Diabetes is about more than having high blood sugar. Without proper management, diabetes can cause kidney disease and kidney failure, blindness, and other serious medical problems. If you’re overweight and you don’t have diabetes, losing weight is an important part of preventing diabetes in your future. And if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, weight management should be part of your treatment goals. At DOCCS Urgent Care, we help patients understand their diabetes-related risks, whether or not they’ve been diagnosed with the disease. Our team will work with you to create a custom treatment plan aimed at helping you stay healthy so you can prevent diabetes or manage your disease more effectively — and often without insulin. To learn more about diabetes management and how we can help you reduce your diabetes-related health risks, book an appointment online today.

DOCCS Urgent and Primary Health Care
✆ Phone (appointments): tel:321-752-7100