How Does Obesity Cause Type 2 Diabetes?

obesity and type 2 diabetes

What is Obesity?

Obesity is loosely defined as a condition of having too much fat (also called adipose tissue). Causes of obesity can include having a sedentary lifestyle, lack of access to healthy foods, genes and family history, certain health conditions and medications, emotional factors, lack of sleep, age, and more (1).

Obesity can be further defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is the most common method for measuring body fat. It is a hotly debated mathematical calculation involving height and weight. Why the debate? Well, the BMI calculation doesn’t doesn’t take into account family history, gender, age, or race. Plus, it can be inaccurate for people with certain body types (think body builders, etc).

type 2 diabetes and obesity

BMI = [Weight (lbs) ÷ height (in)2 ] x 704.5

In general, the BMI ranges are as follows:

Below 18.5 – Underweight

18.5-24.9 – Normal weight

24.5-29.9 – Overweight

30 and greater – Obese

40 and greater – Morbidly obese

Another widely used measurement is waist circumference, which determines the amount of abdominal fat. Excess abdominal fat that is disproportionate to total body fat can be a predictor of obesity-related risk factors. Those who are at risk are men with a waist measurement exceeding 40 inches and women with a waist measurement exceeding 35 inches. Other factors, such as family history, level of physical activity, smoking, and diet may be used to assess individual risk.

More than one-third of the U.S. adult population (approximately 78.6 million Americans) are affected by obesity.

What Are The Risks of Obesity?

Obesity increases the risk for more than 30 chronic health conditions including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, sleep apnea, stroke, asthma and other respiratory conditions, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

What are Obesity Types?

Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including age, race, pregnancy, stress, certain medications, genetics or family history, and high cholesterol. However, one of the best predictors of type 2 diabetes? Being overweight or obese. Almost 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.

But, why?

Well, obesity causes increased levels of fatty acids and inflammation, leading to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes and accounts for approximately 90% of diabetes cases. People with type 2 diabetes can produce some of their own insulin, but it’s often not enough or the body’s cells don’t respond to it. As a result of this insulin resistance, glucose (blood sugar) builds up in the body, leading to high blood sugar.

Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Fatigue may also result from dehydration.  Untreated or poorly controlled diabetes can cause other health concerns like vision problems, nerve damage, infections, heart problems, high blood pressure, mental health issues, ketoacidosis, and stroke.

Since there is an association between type 2 diabetes and being overweight, treatment for type 2 diabetes often focuses on diet and exercise. Oral medications can also help the body use its own insulin more efficiently. In some cases, insulin injections are necessary to normalize blood sugars.

Living with Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Living with obesity and type 2 diabetes is not without its risks, but there’s a lot you can do to take charge of your health. Managing diabetes includes eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and, at the advice of your doctor, using medications.

While Type 2 diabetes can be treated, it is largely preventable. Lifestyle changes and small amounts of weight loss can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 40-60%.

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