Diabetes and Morbid Obesity

Effects of Morbid Obesity on Type 2 Diabetes

Obesity (especially where it involves large amounts of stored fat around the middle, called central adiposity or intra-abdominal fat) is strongly associated with prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes. Indeed, a new word “diabesity” has been invented to reflect the close link between the surges in obesity and diabetes. For example, up to 90 percent of type 2 diabetics are reported to be overweight or obese, and an estimated 70 percent of diabetes risk is attributable to excess weight. Research evidence from the Nurses Health Study shows that the risk of diabetes begins to increase in normal-weight women when body mass index exceeds 22.

Relationship Between Obesity and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Compared to the risk of contracting diabetes among normal-weight individuals, health studies indicate that the risk for type 2 diabetes is about twofold in the mildly obese (BMI 30+), fivefold in moderately obese (BMI 35+) and tenfold in morbidly obese persons (BMI 40+). Overall, the relative risk of developing diabetes was 2.9 times higher for obese persons who are 20-75 years old, than for people of normal weight. The duration of the obesity condition is an additional risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Severe Obesity Complicates Diabetes Management

Morbid Obesity makes the management of type 2 diabetes more difficult because it increases insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, which reduces the effectiveness of drug treatment.

Weight Loss Reduces Risk of Diabetes

Losing weight helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Clinical trials show that a 10 percent weight loss can lead to significant improvements in diabetes. Weight reduction is especially beneficial for the 20 million or so Americans who have impaired glucose tolerance (sometimes called pre-diabetes) which is a strong risk factor for developing diabetes later in life.

Weight Loss Makes Diabetes Management Easier

Weight reduction also helps diabetes patients in other ways. It improves insulin insensitivity, and makes body cells respond more efficiently to insulin. Some diabetics can therefore reduce their medication dosage, or cease drug treatment for their diabetic condition entirely.

Child Obesity and Diabetes

The twin surges of obesity and diabetes are now affecting children. Among the nine million overweight children in America, 25 percent are already showing early signs of type 2 diabetes. Between 8-45 percent of newly diagnosed cases of childhood diabetes are type 2, associated with obesity.


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