Studies suggest that diabetes and obesity are linked. It's true that being more than 20% above your ideal body weight is one of the risk factors for diabetes. Evidence suggests that losing weight can reduce blood glucose levels and increase glucose tolerance in some patients with diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease of the metabolism in which the body's cells can't take glucose from the blood. As a result, cells can't make energy from glucose, and they're forced to consume their own proteins. Complications of diabetes can include kidney failure, blindness and a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, in which patients sustain nerve damage, often resulting in numbness to the extremities.
Studied conducted by the CDC show that patients with type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes, are often overweight. Unlike patients with type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes, those with type 2 diabetes continue to produce the hormone insulin within their bodies. Individuals with type 2 diabetes may have normal, or even high, levels of insulin in their blood, but for some reason, insulin doesn't bind to their cell receptors the way it should. As a result, those with type 2 diabetes are "insulin resistant," meaning that their bodies don't use insulin the way that they should.
The Link Between Diabetes and Obesity
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes, have tripled in the last 30 years. Though type 2 diabetes tends to run in families, most people who develop the disease are also overweight. Fat can build up in the muscles and liver of an obese person, causing damage to cells and inhibiting cells' ability to detect insulin signals. As a result, blood sugar levels rise, and type 2 diabetes occurs.
Controlling Obesity to Prevent Diabetes
If you're overweight or obese, weight loss can help stave off type 2 diabetes, even if the disease runs in your family. Obesity, and many of its concurrent disorders, such as hypertension, is one of the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
If you already suffer from type 2 diabetes, losing weight can help prevent the complications of diabetes. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can lead to hardening of the arteries, causing cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. Type 2 diabetes can also cause peripheral nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause such severe nerve damage that the patient can no longer feel their own extremities. In serious cases, amputations become necessary, as sores and wounds on the feet fester unnoticed.
Type 2 diabetes can also cause damage to small blood vessels in the eyes and internal organs, causing blindness and damage to the kidneys and heart. However, doctors believe that a weight loss regimen, including a low GI diet and regular physical activity, can actually increase insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Increased insulin sensitivity means a lower chance of developing some of the serious complications of type 2 diabetes.