Ever wondered if there is a connection between obesity and diabetes? The reality is that being obese or even overweight can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
According to the Canadian Obesity Network, one in four Canadian adults and one in 10 children have clinical obesity. Research also shows that if you’re obese, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes are 80 times greater than those of people whose body mass index (BMI) is within a normal range (under 25).
Carrying excess fat around your middle is particularly concerning as studies point to abdominal fat causing cells to release chemicals that increase inflammation. It also disrupts the responsiveness of cells to insulin, which is referred to as insulin resistance. This means our pancreatic beta cells have to work even harder to produce enough insulin to control our blood sugar, and in some cases simply cannot.
The term “diabesity” is sometimes used to describe this progression of health problems from mild insulin resistance to excess weight, obesity and diabetes.
The good news is while we can’t control our genetic makeup when it comes to developing diseases like diabetes, we can improve our insulin sensitivity. Regulating our weight, exercising and sticking to a nutritious diet will have a major impact in targeting obesity and reducing the chances of diabetes onset and complications.
Diet and exercise a winning combination
Eating less and moving more sounds like a simple recipe, but the key is to make it a sustaining lifestyle.
In an effort to reduce obesity, Canada has been developing a Healthy Eating Strategy and Diabetes Canada has been lobbying government to get it underway. In fact, for several years, the national association has been urging government to increase taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, help make healthy food more affordable and promote healthy eating among people who are at higher risk of developing diabetes.
Exercise is another key element in reducing obesity and preventing diabetes complications. Not only does moving more increase energy expenditure, it can build muscle, which improves blood sugar control. Find out how to measure your exercise intensity here.
Increasing your activity levels and working towards even small amounts of weight loss if you’re overweight can have a dramatic impact on your likelihood of developing diabetes in the future.
And if you already have diabetes and are overweight, losing 10 pounds or more may help decrease the amount of medication you’ll need to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. Find out more about the connection between eating and exercise when you have diabetes here.
Other lifestyle points
Beyond nutrition and exercise, getting a good handle on stress and sleep are aspects of our lifestyle that can help curb weight gain and diabetes complications.
When we’re stressed our levels of insulin, cortisol and inflammatory compounds shoot up. This in turn has been linked to weight gain, insulin resistance and the eventual onset of type 2 diabetes.
While we can’t eliminate stress entirely, we can learn to control it through meditation, yoga, dancing and even simply finding outlets to laugh more. Find other ways to manage stress here.
Sleeping enough is another way we can reduce blood sugar spikes and carb cravings that lead to overeating. One study showed that even a partial night of poor sleep could induce insulin resistance.1
That’s why it’s important to make sleep a priority and create a bedtime ritual that makes it more conducive to happening. This could include darkening your room and taking a relaxing bath prior to turning in for the night.
While the link between excess pounds and type 2 diabetes is growing more and more concrete, remember that you can do something about it. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your changes of developing the disease—and give those with diabetes a better handle on controlling it.