Why Do Type 1 Diabetics Lose Weight? Is it Healthy Weight Loss?

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

General Physician | 6+ years

weight loss and type 1 diabetes
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Everybody wishes they could be thinner. And in most cases, weight reduction is a good thing and benefits health. However, there are cases when weight loss is not a good sign, like in Type 1 Diabetes. Why do Type 1 Diabetics lose weight? What can be done about it? Let’s find out.

Contents:
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    What is Type 1 Diabetes?
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    Why do Type 1 Diabetics Lose Weight and Feel Weak?
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    How Can a Type 1 Diabetic Gain Weight?
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    When to See a Doctor?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes mellitus, known simply as Type 1 Diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder, where your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing β-cells of your pancreas. As a result, there is little to no insulin production in your body in Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes can begin at any age but usually develops in children or adolescents. 

Type 1 Diabetes symptoms are generally caused by high blood glucose levels. Unintended weight loss is among the most commonly observed symptoms in Type 1 Diabetes

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Why do Type 1 Diabetics Lose Weight and Feel Weak?

You may be curious to know why Type 1 Diabetic patients lose weight even after consuming the right amount of food. Weight loss and Type 1 Diabetes have a complex relationship. Let’s see how.

Your body digests the food you eat and breaks it down into glucose (sugar). This glucose gets absorbed into your bloodstream and is moved into your cells with the help of insulin, where this glucose is converted into energy. In this way, insulin helps regulate the amount of glucose present in your blood. 

In Type 1 Diabetes, your body does not make insulin, due to which your blood glucose levels are high. When the required glucose does not reach the cells, your body thinks it is starving and tries alternative ways to compensate. 

It creates energy by burning fat and muscle at a rapid pace and depletes the glycogen stores. This can lead to unexplained weight loss and weakness in Type 1 Diabetes.

Meanwhile, the excess glucose build-up in your blood is removed by your kidneys through urination. This uses additional energy and also damages your kidneys. 

Weight loss due to Type 1 Diabetes is called unintentional because you lose weight rapidly without making dietary or lifestyle changes for it.

How Can a Type 1 Diabetic Gain Weight?

How can a skinny diabetic gain weight? Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes can gain weight by managing their blood glucose levels. Insulin therapy, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits can help you manage the condition effectively and gain weight safely. 

Here are a few ways in which you can gain weight.

  1. Know your body mass index (BMI) and try to determine what your ideal weight is in accordance with your height. 
  2. Provide your body with essential nutrients and calories by having a healthy balanced diet consisting of protein, fibre, healthy fats, and carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index. This can help to supply your body with the required amount of calories and also reduce spikes in your blood sugar levels. You can include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts in your diet.
  3. Add protein-rich foods to your diet to help you maintain muscle mass. Try incorporating chicken, soybeans, eggs, and fish into your meals. 
  4. Resistance training with weights can help you gain lean muscle and increase your weight in a healthy way.
  5. Avoid eating processed, fried, and packaged foods which lack nutritional value.
  6. Try having 6 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals. Here, the trick is to provide calories to your body every 3 hours before it starts to burn the stored-up fat.

When to See a Doctor?

If you face unintentional weight loss due to Type 1 Diabetes, you should consult your doctor immediately to rule out any other causes of weight loss. 

Also, if you wish to gain weight, you should talk to your doctor or dietician about the safest way to achieve this. They can help determine a healthy weight range for you, create weight loss goals and meal plans, and set up an efficient exercise routine.

Type 1 Diabetes and weight loss may go hand in hand. But any drastic weight loss can be a cause for concern. If you lose more than 5% of your normal body weight or more than 4.5 to 5 kgs in 6 to 12 months without any changes to your dietary and exercise patterns, you should consult your doctor immediately.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Unintended weight loss is among the most commonly observed symptoms in Type 1 Diabetes.
  • In Type 1 Diabetes, your body does not make insulin, due to which your blood glucose levels are high. When the required glucose does not reach the cells, your body thinks it is starving and tries alternative ways to compensate. It creates energy by burning fat and muscle at a rapid pace and depletes the glycogen stores. This can lead to unexplained weight loss and weakness.
  • Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes can gain weight by managing their blood glucose levels. Insulin therapy, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits can help you manage Type 1 Diabetes effectively and gain weight safely. 
  • If you face unintentional weight loss due to Type 1 Diabetes, you should consult your doctor immediately so they can rule out any other causes of weight loss. 
  • If you wish to gain weight, you should talk to your doctor or dietician about the safest way to achieve this goal. They can help determine a healthy weight range for you, create weight loss goals and meal plans, and set up an efficient exercise routine.
  • If you lose more than 5% of your normal body weight or more than 4.5 to 5 kgs in 6 to 12 months without any changes to your diet or activity patterns, you should consult your doctor immediately.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Type 1 Diabetes can cause weight loss as well as weight gain. Unintentional weight loss is often a symptom of Type 1 Diabetes and a sign that your body lacks insulin. On the contrary, many people with Type 1 Diabetes start gaining weight once they start insulin therapy and it is working normally.

Weight loss in Type 1 Diabetes can cause both good and bad effects. Safe and sustained weight loss can help normalise blood glucose levels and may lower the need for insulin therapy or other medications to manage diabetes. Unintentional and drastic weight loss in Type 1 Diabetes can make you feel weak and may also be a sign of an underlying health issue

Type 1 Diabetics can gain weight by increasing their calorie intake with healthy foods in a sustained manner and preventing their body from breaking down fat and muscles for energy. Combined with insulin therapy and regular resistance exercise, a healthy diet may help you gain weight and stabilise your blood sugar levels. 

Yes, Type 1 Diabetics are commonly skinny. In Type 1 Diabetes, your body does not produce insulin. In the absence of insulin, your cells do absorb glucose and are unable to produce energy. This makes your body burn fat and muscle for energy and results in weight loss.

Yes, it may be harder for Type 1 Diabetics to gain weight. Weight loss in Type 1 Diabetes is due to high blood glucose levels, and the blood glucose levels are frequently going up and down in Type 1 Diabetes. Thus, it may be difficult for those with type 1 Diabetes to sustain a healthy weight. Once Type 1 Diabetics are on insulin therapy, it usually becomes easier to gain weight. 

Yes, Type 1 Diabetics can gain muscle. Following a balanced diet including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and protein sources such as beans, and lentils, along with strength training can help you build strong bones and muscles.

Not everyone but most people with Type 1 Diabetics lose weight. Due to a lack of insulin production in the body, the sugar required to produce energy will be removed through urination. This makes your body burn the stored fat and muscle resulting in weight loss.

Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes do not produce insulin in their bodies. Thus, their bodies are not able to utilise the glucose from food for energy and start burning fat and muscle to compensate for the energy requirement. This may lead to unintentional weight loss.

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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