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A Codependent Relationship: Diabetes & Obesity

According to the Center for Disease Control, we are eating ourselves into a diabetes epidemic. The International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) says that, “Diabetes and obesity are the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century.” The supporting statistics they cite are staggering:
As of 1999, diabetes affected 16 million (six percent) of Americans – an increase of 40 percent in just ten years.

  • During the same period, the obesity rate climbed from 12 percent to almost 20 percent.
  • Last year the diabetes and obesity rates increased 6 percent and 57 percent.
  • Every three seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Of the children born in 2000, one in three will eventually develop diabetes.

  • Although both diabetes and obesity risk factors are often associated with race, age, and family history, it’s becoming more and more clear that the conveniences of modern life also contribute to the development of both diseases. For example, sedentary lifestyles (reduced physical activity) and the popularity of high fat, high energy diets (think “Super Size Me”) and convenient foods are known to lead to obesity – but do they also cause diabetes?

    Is There a Link Between Obesity and Diabetes?

    Of the people diagnosed with type II diabetes, about 80 to 90 percent are also diagnosed as obese. This fact provides an interesting clue to the link between diabetes and obesity. Understanding what causes the disease will hopefully allow us to prevent diabetes in the future.

    Being overweight places extra stress on your body in a variety of ways, including your body’s ability to maintain proper blood glucose levels. In fact, being overweight can cause your body to become resistant to insulin. If you already have diabetes, this means you will need to take even more insulin to get sugar into your cells. And if you don’t have diabetes, the prolonged effects of the insulin resistance can eventually cause you to develop the disease.

    Will Insulin Make Me Gain Weight?

    Weight gain is common in people who take insulin to treat diabetes. That’s because the more insulin you use to maintain your blood glucose level, the more glucose is absorbed into your cells, rather than eliminated by your body. The absorbed glucose is stored as fat, which makes you gain weight. Of course, that just one of the links between insulin and weight gain.

    If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to modify your diet accordingly. Otherwise, it’s probable that you’ll gain weight once you begin taking insulin – which will only compound the problem your body already has maintaining proper blood glucose levels, as well as increase your risk of diabetes-related complications.

    In reality, once you begin taking insulin to treat diabetes, you really don’t need as much food. Since your body is using the food properly, rather than wasting it, you should discover that you don’t need as much as you are accustomed to eating. Hopefully, modifying your diet will help you prevent the weight gain often associated with taking insulin. In addition, be sure you monitor your blood glucose levels on a regular basis, as recommended by your physician.

    Are There New Treatments for Diabetes and Obesity?

    In an effort to close the information gap, a group of researchers from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied the metabolism process in mice. In December 2007, the group reported in Cell Metabolism that mice lacking an enzyme are lean and resistant to weight gain, even when placed on a high fat diet.

    This is good news for everyone because renin-blocking drugs, such as those used to control blood pressure, may also be used eventually to treat diabetes and obesity, as well as insulin resistance. In clinical trials, these drugs are showing positive results when it comes to improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the incidence of type II diabetes.

    Prevent Obesity, Prevent Diabetes

    To reduce the chances that you will develop diabetes, maintain a healthy weight and increase your physical activity. You may also want to try a diabetes vitamin, specially formulated for people with diabetes.

    If you are overweight, even a small weight loss (five to 10 percent) can prevent diabetes - or prolong the chance that you will develop the disease - even if you fall into a high risk category, according to The Obesity Society. And if you have diabetes, this small weight loss can reduce the amount of medication you need, as well as help prevent common complications associated with diabetes, such as blindness, stroke and heart attacks.

    To aid in weight loss, a high fiber, low carbohydrate diet and 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity per day are recommended. Always consult with your physician before beginning any new workout or diet program, especially if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.


    Science Daily –
    Mayo Clinic –
    The Obesity Society -
    University of Pennsylvania, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism -
    International Diabetes Foundation –

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