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How Obesity Is Related to Diabetes

by
author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
How Obesity Is Related to Diabetes
An obese man is injecting himself with insulin. Photo Credit thawatpong/iStock/Getty Images

Being obese increases your risk of various weight-related diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, although not everyone who is obese develops this condition. Excess fat appears to disrupt various metabolic functions, heavily influencing a cascade of events that promote insulin resistance, according to clinical data published in the journal "Diabetes" in July 2010. If you're obese, take action to reduce your body weight, as losing just 5 to 10 percent of your current weight reduces your risk of obesity-related diseases, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Why It Matters

Obesity occurs when you have a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or above. BMI is a formula that uses your weight and height to estimate body fat, and the higher your BMI is, the greater your risk for developing various health problems. Obesity increases the risk for conditions other than diabetes, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, reproductive problems and gallstones, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Insulin Resistance

Various interdependent metabolic factors play a role in the development of obesity-related diabetes, according to an article published in "Genes and Development" in 2007. The authors, who are researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, explain that obesity causes cells in your body to become resistant to insulin, which is a glucose-regulating hormone. Resistance impairs insulin's ability to reduce glucose output from the liver, according to the authors. Insulin resistance is a key factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Mechanisms of Action

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research conducted a study to determine the underlying mechanism behind obesity-related insulin resistance. They discovered that pro-inflammatory cells within fat tissues trigger inflammation, causing the release of proteins known as cytokines. The ongoing release of cytokines leads to cells becoming resistant to the effects of insulin, setting the stage for Type 2 diabetes, according to the study. This helps explain why chronic inflammation is a hallmark of obesity and its implications for the development of diabetes. The study was published in the July 2010 edition of the journal "Diabetes."

Taking Action

Obesity is a serious health problem. In most cases, you can prevent or improve obesity-related conditions by losing weight. If you weigh 200 pounds, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight means dropping 10 to 20 pounds. This can improve insulin sensitivity and other health markers, such as cholesterol levels, according to the Obesity Action Coalition. If you're at risk, talk to your doctor about an obesity treatment plan that is right for you.

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