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Why Is it Hard to Lose Weight With Diabetes?

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.
Why Is it Hard to Lose Weight With Diabetes?
A person's hands taking a blood glucose reading with a basket of vegetables in the background. Photo Credit: Victor_69/iStock/Getty Images

Even with a change in diet and activity level, you may find that it's challenging to lose weight if you have diabetes. Between 90 to 95 percent of those diagnosed with this condition have Type 2, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearing House. Type 1 accounts for only 5 to 10 percent of all cases. Insulin resistance and high insulin levels are a hallmark of Type 2, whereas a lack of insulin is the primary characteristic of Type 1. Despite the challenges, you can employ strategies to help facilitate weight loss.

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Challenges With Type 1 Diabetes

Intensive insulin therapy, which aims to mimic your body's normal insulin secretion, can cause weight gain, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Researchers in the UK conducted a study to discover the mechanism involved. The study found about 70 percent of weight gain was attributed to insulin-influenced calorie storage, according to the results published in the journal "Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism" July 2006 issue. The authors theorized that weight gain may result from taking in more insulin than your body needs, or over-replacement.

Challenges With Type 2 Diabetes

Weight loss is a common challenge with Type 2 diabetes. Many people with Type 2 diabetes have existing weight control issues. Approximately 80 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearing House. Insulin resistance causes your pancreas to secrete more insulin to compensate, which leads to high insulin levels. Excess insulin and insulin resistance may make it difficult to lose weight.

Losing Weight With Type 2

Diet plays a key role in glycemic control if you have Type 2 diabetes. Following a low-carbohydrate diet is an effective strategy to promote weight loss and improve glycemic control, according to a study in the "Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences" 2005 issue. The study examined the effect of a low-carb diet and a conventional diet on obese men and women with Type 2 diabetes. Researchers found adhering to a low-carb diet resulted in significant improvements in body weight and blood-glucose regulation compared to a more traditional diet.

Losing Weight With Type 1

In Type 1 diabetes, weight gain is related to intensive insulin therapy, not conventional insulin therapy. The majority of the weight gained occurs within the first year of starting therapy, according to the Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism study. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of switching to a different type of insulin treatment if you're already following a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and still having trouble losing weight.

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