What is the Link Between Obesity and Diabetes?

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

obesity and diabetes
Living with diabetes, hypertension or any other lifestyle disease is difficult and most often a lonely journey. With Phable, India’s no. 1 BP and Sugar Management Mobile App, you can use technology to take charge of your health. Also Phable’s one-stop-shop is here to help you manage your condition better.

Due to the fast-paced, stressful, and sedentary lifestyles most of us lead today, obesity and diabetes cases have sky-rocketed over the past few decades. And the number of these cases is expected to keep rising worldwide in the coming years, turning Type 2 Diabetes and obesity into pandemics and the primary causes of ill-health and disability around the world. 

How are these two conditions linked? How are they treated? Read on to learn more about how you can lower your risk of complications caused by obesity and diabetes.

Contents:
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    What is Diabesity?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    What is the Relationship Between Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Does Everyone With Obesity Eventually Develop Diabetes?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Can Losing Weight Improve Your Diabetes?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    How Can You Prevent or Manage Obesity?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    FAQs
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What is Diabesity?

You might have come across the term diabesity. Ever wondered what it means? Although it is not a scientific term, it is commonly used when an individual presents with diabetes, obesity, and metabolism problems. 

Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterised by your body’s inability to utilise the hormone insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

Obesity is a complex medical condition that involves the accumulation of excess fat in your body and a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and above. It can alter your metabolism and increase your risk of developing other health issues. 

You can calculate your BMI by using the formula below, and determine your weight group using Table No. 1.

Body Mass Index = Weight in kilograms ÷ Height in meters2

Table No. 1 BMI Range and Weight Classification

BMI (kg/m2)

Classification

<18.5

Underweight

18.5 to 24.9

Healthy

25 to 29.9

Overweight

>30

Obese

Source: National Health Service, UK

Metabolic syndrome is the term used to refer to a group of disorders that increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and other health problems. The conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome are high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar levels, and accumulation of excess fat around your gut.

Having diabetes and obesity, with or without the presence of metabolic syndrome, can greatly increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other complications. Hence, it is important to manage diabesity effectively to improve your life expectancy and overall health.

What is the Relationship Between Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity?

Obesity and diabetes are interlinked and have a complex relationship. When you are overweight or obese, your adipose (fat) tissues release free fatty acids into your bloodstream. Studies show that high levels of free fatty acids in your blood can lead to insulin resistance in your cells and muscles. 

Insulin resistance is a condition where the cells in your liver, muscles, and adipose tissues are unable to take up glucose from your blood, despite the presence of sufficient levels of insulin in your body. Insulin resistance causes elevated blood glucose levels, which send a signal to your pancreas to release more insulin (hyperinsulinaemia). The presence of insulin resistance in your cells and hyperinsulinaemia are major indicators for the development of prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

If you are overweight or obese, your body is more likely to release compounds that cause inflammation (called inflammatory mediators). Chronic inflammation impairs your metabolism and can increase your risk of developing insulin resistance, atherosclerosis (fat and plaque build-up in arteries), cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, depression, etc. Thus, obesity causes diabetes by making your cells insulin resistant.

Does Everyone with Obesity Eventually Develop Diabetes?

Though being obese increases your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes several-fold, it does not necessarily guarantee a diabetes diagnosis. There are other significant factors that play a role, including:

  • Your exercise routine and physical activity levels
  • Your diet
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Your mental well-being and how you manage stress
  • Your age
  • The presence of other health conditions like hypertension, heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), etc.
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Can Losing Weight Improve Your Diabetes?

Yes, losing weight can do wonders for Type 2 Diabetes management. Any reduction in weight, especially visceral fat (fat around your abdomen), can improve insulin sensitivity in your cells, resulting in better glycaemic control and reduced blood sugar levels. 

According to the National Health Service (NHS) UK, losing just 5% of your body weight can significantly improve your blood sugar levels, and reduce your risk of developing obesity and diabetes-related complications.

How Can You Prevent or Manage Obesity?

Losing weight plays a vital role in the management of not just Type 2 Diabetes, but also hypertension, PCOS, prediabetes, thyroid dysfunction, sleep apnoea (trouble breathing when asleep), mental health, and many other conditions. 

There can be several causes of obesity, the most common ones being physical inactivity and poor dietary habits. Certain medications and health conditions like hormonal imbalances can also lead to obesity; these factors can be addressed by your doctor.

Obesity can be managed with lifestyle changes, medications, or even surgeries and medical procedures. Losing weight naturally through lifestyle changes is the healthiest option in the long run. 

Making the following simple changes to your lifestyle can help you lose weight and manage obesity.

  • Eat balanced and healthy meals

Diet is the most important component of weight management. You cannot outrun or out-exercise a bad diet, so being mindful of what you eat and having a healthy diet plan is crucial for weight loss. 

Including more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy in your diet and cutting out processed foods can help you significantly lower your calorie intake and lose weight sustainably. To lose weight, substitute simple carbohydrates and saturated fats with protein, fibre, and complex carbohydrates.

Click here to learn how to lose weight faster.

  • Don’t just exercise, be physically active

According to the National Health Service (NHS UK), 45 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, at least 5 times a week can help you lose weight and prevent obesity. If you are not used to being physically active, start with 30 minutes of walking or home work-outs a day, and slowly switch to more intense activities like running, swimming, skipping, aerobics, cycling, etc. 

Include resistance training to improve bone strength and muscle function. Exercise can not only help you lose weight, but it can also improve insulin sensitivity in your cells, leading to better glycaemic control.

  • Sleep to lose weight

Getting less than 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day can alter your metabolism. Along with causing fatigue, inflammation, and stress, loss of sleep can also trigger hunger hormones. 

This leads to increased appetite, overeating, and a higher calorie intake, all of which result in weight gain.

  • Learn to manage stress

Stress is a significant contributor to obesity. Cortisol, a stress hormone, triggers hunger hormones, which results in an increased appetite. Emotional stress and thus stress-eating can lead to obesity. High cortisol levels also slow down your metabolism, leading to fewer calories being burned. 

Hence, it is important to manage your stress in a healthy way by relaxing, meditating, and practising mindfulness. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.

  • Quit smoking

Though light smoking can reduce your appetite and cause you to burn more calories, heavy smoking is associated with metabolism disruption and an increased risk of obesity. 

Nicotine also causes insulin resistance in your cells, which can worsen your glycaemic control. Hence, quitting smoking can help you manage your obesity as well as Type 2 Diabetes.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Diabesity is a condition where an individual has diabetes, obesity, and metabolism issues. 
  • Obesity causes diabetes as it leads to inflammation and insulin resistance, which leads to or aggravates diabetes.
  • Not everyone with obesity develops Type 2 Diabetes. However, being obese puts you at a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes.
  • Obesity can be managed by having a balanced diet, staying physically active, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and quitting smoking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, losing weight can improve insulin sensitivity in your cells. This helps your cells respond better to insulin. Your cells are able to take up more sugar from the bloodstream, thus lowering your blood sugar levels and improving your condition.

Yes, this is the case for most Type 1 diabetics, who tend to lose weight as their condition develops. This happens because there is a lack of insulin production in their body, because of which their cells are unable to utilise the glucose from their food to generate energy. Due to this, their body starts breaking down the fat and protein in their body for fuel, which causes them to lose weight.

Yes, obesity increases insulin resistance in your cells and tissues, which can cause prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes is characterised by the presence of insulin resistance in your cells, which leads to high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels trigger the release of more insulin from your pancreatic beta cells. Excess insulin in your body prevents weight loss by inhibiting the breakdown of fat and carbohydrates. It also leads to the storage of excess glucose in your liver, adipose (fat) tissue, and muscles in the form of glycogen and fat. Both of these factors lead to weight gain in Type 2 Diabetes.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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