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Why Does Being Obese Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?

by icontrolmyhealth
Why Does Being Obese Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?

‘Diabesity’:  would you accept this new terminology?


Obesity has been considered one of the most common risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The association between diabetes and obesity appears to be so common that scientists have coined the term “diabesity.” As per recent estimates given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of US adults and approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese.
A dramatic increase in obesity rates signals millions of new cases of type 2 diabetes in the coming years. Having said that, the question that needs attention is, why does being obese increases your chance of developing diabetes? In this article, we explain the biological mechanism of the body that links obesity to diabetes.

Understanding Biological Mechanisms

Scientists have presented several theories that link obesity and diabetes. Some of these theories have been proven through studies while others are still being investigated. Obesity-associated insulin resistance is a complex disorder and is thought to be the major underlying mechanism causing type 2 diabetes. As scientists keep making progress in understanding molecular biology, many theories keep evolving. However, the following are some of the important ones that explain how obesity could be triggering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Insulin Resistance

Obese individuals tend to show both insulin resistance and defective insulin secretion. Research has confirmed that obesity reduces insulin’s ability to control blood glucose. In response, your body starts producing more insulin in an attempt to bring the blood glucose levels to normal. With the passage of time, due to the extra workload of producing additional insulin, the body is exhausted and is therefore unable to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range, leading to pre-diabetes or diabetes.


It has also been suggested that some inflammatory markers are responsible for the development of type 2 diabetes. In obese people, these inflammatory markers are present in organs, such as the liver, fat tissues, and pancreas. These inflammatory markers are responsible for beta cell dysfunction in the pancreas which eventually leads to insulin deficiency.

Increased Levels of Free Fatty Acids

Another mechanism that is thought to link diabetes and obesity is increased levels of Free Fatty Acids (FFAs). It has long been recognized that plasma fatty acid concentrations are commonly elevated in obese individuals. Scientists believe that FFAs interfere with insulin signaling. Increased levels of FFA have been shown to account for up to 50 percent of insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

In summary, the theories that link obesity and type 2 diabetes suggest that an increase in fatty tissue, as seen in obese individuals, increases insulin resistance in the body. Although obesity may increase your risk of developing diabetes, it is considered to be a modifiable risk factor. This means that you can actually reduce your risk of diabetes by reducing weight. Studies such as Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) suggest that losing seven percent of your weight gradually through healthy eating along with 150 minutes of brisk physical activity per week can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58 percent.
Learn more about DPP
Lifestyle modification interventions to manage weight

Do You Lack the Motivation to Exercise?

Do You Lack the Motivation to Exercise
Running on a treadmill among all slim and trim women? I would rather not go to the gym. Do you secretly grumble like this?

Given above is just one, among the numerous excuses many of us come up with, just to avoid exercising. With so much being said and read about losing weight, and its benefits, most of those who are overweight feel determined to start ‘some’ kind of activity to lose weight. Regular exercise is necessary for losing weight and maintaining weight loss. Incorporating regular exercise in your weight loss program significantly improves your chances of achieving long-term results.  Although convinced about all the benefits of regular exercise, there is something that keeps you from doing so. Is it the inertia, embarrassment, lack of time, or simply put lack of motivation? Here is an effort to motivate you to put on your running shoes.

1. Lose that Flabby Belly

Being overweight or obese surely means you have too much fat inside your body. In addition to increasing your risk for chronic illnesses, it also makes you feel self-conscious and can lead to low self-esteem. Exercise can help you lose that fat, but you need to be really determined and indulge in some high-intensity exercise that involves both anaerobic as well aerobic exercise. It is important to note that by just reducing five percent of your body weight, you can significantly reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses.

2. Lift Up Your Mood

Have you been feeling down looking at the weighing scale? Exercise can give you dual benefits. Apart from making you lose weight, it can also make you feel good and happy. When you exercise, your body releases a chemical known as endorphin, which can have a great positive effect on your mood. Scientists believe that improvements in mood may also be caused by exercise-induced increases in blood circulation to the brain. Aerobic exercises, such as jogging, swimming, cycling, and dancing are also known to reduce anxiety and depression.

3. Drop Your Rising Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that exercise and diet can lower blood pressure in overweight individuals. Lifestyle modifications that involve physical activity are also recommended as the first line of therapy for reducing blood pressure. So, when you indulge in exercise, you also work your way towards a healthy heart.

 4. Keep Your Lipid Levels in Check

Being obese raises your risk of heart disease through many mechanisms. Abnormal lipid levels (dyslipidemia) associated with obesity can cause several complications, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Studies reveal that physical exercise can cause improvements in blood lipid profiles in obese individuals.

5. Reduce the Risk of Diabetes

Being obese puts you at increased risk of developing diabetes as both conditions are thought to have some common underlying pathology. However, regular exercise can reduce your risk of this chronic illness. This has been proven through studies, such as the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which reveal that losing seven percent of body weight can reduce your diabetes risk by 58 percent.

Exercise can have a lot of positive effects on your overall health. Apart from shedding fat, it also reduces your risk of chronic illnesses. Exercise is an important and integral part of lifestyle modification. Although you may be tempted to try out other means, remember that exercise is a natural and effective approach with no side effects. With exercise, you have lots to gain and nothing to lose, except for those extra pounds. Weight loss medications or Bariatric surgery may seem like a quick fix, but those are not free from debilitating side effects.
So, why avoid exercise, it is a great intervention for weight loss, and that’s easy, relatively inexpensive, and effective too.

What’s in the News?

Eating a Healthy Breakfast May Lower the Risk of Diabetes in Children

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it provides you with the optimal energy and nutrients to kick-start a new day. A new study reports that children who eat a healthy, particularly a high-fiber cereal breakfast show a lower risk of diabetes.

Scientists have predicted that by 2035, nearly 600 million people will have diabetes. This indicates an urgent need for interventions to prevent this chronic illness. Previous studies have reported that adults who consume healthy breakfasts show a reduced risk of developing diabetes and obesity.

Healthy breakfast in children is associated with improvement in function at school and reducing obesity. However, the role of a healthy breakfast in reducing diabetes in children has not received much attention. The issue of breakfast also seems to be important, as the prevalence of breakfast skipping has been reported to be high, especially among children and youth.

In the present study, the researchers from St. George’s University of London studied the associations between breakfast consumption (both frequency and breakfast content) and risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease among children aged 9 to 10 years. The participating children were asked several questions to understand how frequently and what they usually eat for breakfast.

The researchers then categorized the type of foods eaten as high-fiber cereal, low-fiber cereal, bread-based breakfast only, biscuit-based breakfast only, and others (which included eggs, fruits, and yogurts). The important physical assessments, such as height, weight, fat mass (obtained by subtracting fat-free mass from total body weight), lipid levels, serum insulin levels, hemoglobin, etc. were measured.

On observing the data, researchers found that nearly 26 percent of children did not eat breakfast every day. Interestingly, insulin resistance, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), glucose, triglyceride, C-reactive protein, systolic blood pressure, and fat mass index, all of which are the biomarkers of diabetes risk were lower and High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL, good cholesterol) was higher among children who reported eating breakfast every day. In addition, children who ate high-fiber cereal showed lower insulin resistance compared with children who ate low-fiber cereal, bread-based, biscuits, or other breakfast categories.

The findings of the study once again confirm the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. This study specifically points out the importance of eating high-fiber cereal-based breakfast in lowering diabetes risk among children.

FAQs about Diabetes

Which Cooking Oils are Best for People with Diabetes?

Cooking Oils

Diagnosis of diabetes brings in some drastic changes in your lifestyle. With suggested restrictions in the diet, cooking can be a real challenge.  Choosing the best cooking oil should be based on important factors, such as type and amount of fat. People with diabetes need to restrict their intake of saturated fat as it can increase bad cholesterol and cause insulin resistance. On the other hand, oils that contain mono or polyunsaturated fats may reduce insulin resistance. You may choose from flaxseed, canola, soybean, olive, safflower, sunflower, or any other oil that contains mono or polyunsaturated fats. It is also important to understand proper cooking methods with these oils as some may be suitable for high-heat cooking and some for salad dressing.  You can determine this on the basis of smoke point, the temperature at which a cooking oil begins to break down.

Can Green Tea Lower Cholesterol Levels?

Green Tea
Results from some studies have shown a beneficial effect of green tea consumption on the heart. As per the evidence, daily consumption of about five to six cups of green tea can reduce blood pressure, and levels of total and bad cholesterol.  Green tea contains polyphenols, which are believed to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol. In addition, green tea contains antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of fatty plaque formation. Although the clinical studies have given some positive results, at this stage it is too early to recommend green tea as a substitute for other pharmacological interventions.

Who Can Take Prescription Weight Loss Medications?

Weight Loss Medications
Lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise are essential for both the prevention and management of obesity. But, if you have serious health problems because of your weight and lifestyle modifications are ineffective, prescription weight loss medications can be considered as an option.  Weight loss medications are not recommended for someone who wants to lose a few pounds just for cosmetic reasons. You need to meet a certain criterion as given below to be eligible for taking prescription weight loss medication,

  • If you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30
  • If you have a BMI of more than 27 and have an obesity-related disease, such as diabetes or heart disease

Have more questions about diabetes? You can write to us at info@icontrolmyhealth.org

Recipe of the Month

Herb and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

Herb and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

10 baby golden potatoes (about 1 lb total), scrubbed and quartered
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
¼ cup dill, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • Place potatoes in a large pot, and cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
  • Add lemon juice and olive oil, and begin mashing by hand or with an electric mixer.
  • When the mixture is smooth and creamy, stir in lemon zest, cilantro, dill, salt, and pepper.
  • Serve warm.

Test your Knowledge

1. Obese people show the presence of inflammatory markers in which of the following organs?

A. Skin
B. Liver
C. Lungs
D. Brain

2. Which of the following pathological mechanisms cause diabetes in obese people?

A. Insulin resistance
B. Inflammation
C. Beta-cell dysfunction in the pancreas
D. All of above

3. Which of the following factors need not be considered while choosing cooking oil?

A. Type of fat
B. Amount of fat
C. Odor
D. Smoke point

Answers: 1-B, 2-D, 3-C

IControlMyHealth, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit healthcare organization with an exclusive focus on empowering people to live healthier lives through behavior change programs, education, and evidence generation. For any questions or comments, or to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, please visit www.icontrolmyhealth.org or send an email to info@icontrolmyhealth.org.