Posted on 21 Apr 2016 Views 2734 Comments 35
With more and more people being diagnosed with diabetes every year, it’s definitely a risk to wake up to if you are overweight. It’s believed that obesity accounts for 80-85% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The charity Diabetes UK suggests that up to 80% of cases of type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making simple diet and lifestyle changes.
In addition to being overweight, other risk factors for diabetes include:
This article refers to type 2 diabetes, which accounts for around 90% of people with diabetes. This type of diabetes is different to type 1 diabetes which is an autoimmune disease often diagnosed in childhood, and requires insulin treatment from the outset. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either isn’t producing enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels, or the body isn’t able to use the insulin it’s producing – known as ‘insulin resistance’. Often people will start by being ‘diet controlled’, and may move on to medications or even insulin as the disease progresses over time.
Why does being overweight increase my risk?
Whilst carrying excess weight is a well-known risk factor for type 2 diabetes, scientists are still not sure about the exact mechanisms by which being overweight or obese cause diabetes.
It’s a myth that diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar or sugary foods. The fact is that being overweight is a big risk factor of developing diabetes, and eating too much sugar or sugary food is linked to weight gain. By regularly eating foods high in sugar (and fat) like cakes, biscuits, pastries, chocolate, and sugary drinks, you increase your calorie intake, and thereby increase your chances of gaining weight.
However, although body mass index (BMI) is an important measurement, it’s perhaps not the most important factor. What really increases your risk of diabetes is your body shape; the amount of weight (fat) you carry around your middle and upper body. You may have seen this measurement referred to as ‘waist circumference’. It is quite possible for someone to have a healthy BMI, but have too large a waist measurement. This means if you are an ‘apple shaped’ person – prone to storing more fat around your middle (and less around your hips and thighs), you may be more at risk of diabetes than a ‘pear shaped’ person (who stores less fat around their middle and more around their hips and thighs) even with the same BMI.
Being overweight, and in particular having a large waist circumference indicates you’re carrying too much fat. Fat stored centrally, around key organs like your heart, liver and pancreas, can result in insulin resistance – where your fat cells have become resistant to your natural insulin production. This results in too much sugar staying in the blood stream, rather than entering your fat cells.
The following table shows the measurement cut-offs for significantly increased risk of diabetes (and cardiovascular disease). If you haven’t already done so, try measuring yourself (instructions in the final section) – if your waist is higher than these below, then you really need to take stock:
|White||94cm (37 inches)||80cm (31.5 inches)|
|Black||94cm (37 inches)||80cm (31.5 inches)|
|Asian||90cm (35 inches)||80cm (31.5 inches)|
Table taken from www.diabetes.co.uk.
How can losing weight help?
Research has shown that losing as little as 5-10% of your weight can result in significantly reducing insulin resistance.
If you already have diabetes, whilst you can’t reverse it, there’s good news for you too on the benefits of weight loss front. Losing 5-10% of your body weight can significantly reduce your HbA1c, and can also reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol if these are raised too.
Losing over 10% of body weight has even more significant improvements.
Research suggests that obese people (BMI over 30) are 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with a BMI of less than 22 – that’s a staggering statistic! A BMI of 22 may seem like a future pipe dream – a long way off, but hopefully the fact that losing just 5% will have a big difference too will motivate you to keep going. For a 15 stone person, this means losing just 10lbs, which is a much more realistic short-term goal.
What else can you do to help reduce your risk?
The following tips will help you to understand your risk factors and how to start making changes.
It's good to be slim
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