1. Health

Does Being Overweight Cause Diabetes

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Individuals of all ages and sizes can have diabetes. While weight does play a role, many other factors also impact the risk of receiving a diabetes diagnosis. As society expands body acceptance messaging, the stigma of obesity-related health issues may lessen, leading to productive conversations. We can love and accept our bodies while understanding the links between weight and health. 

Diabetes is a serious health condition where the body fails to produce enough insulin or use it the right way. As a result, the body doesn't have enough energy when it processes food. Instead, sugars build up in the blood leading to health problems.

Around 10% of people in the U.S. have diabetes, with over 90% of patients having Type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor about your risk.

What Causes Diabetes?

Unfortunately, diabetes doesn't have one cause or even one type. The reason a patient's body develops diabetes differs based on many different factors. 

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have different causes, but they both result in elevated glucose levels in the body. The high levels occur when cells do not respond appropriately to insulin or fail to produce enough insulin. Insulin helps move glucose into our cells. Without insulin, our bodies store glucose instead of using it for normal cell activities. 

When this breakdown in function happens, glucose builds up in the bloodstream over time which can cause organ damage. Damage can occur throughout the body, including the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, brain, and feet. Diabetes is a serious medical condition regardless of the cause. Yet, preventative measures can reduce the risk of long-term damage.

Does Obesity Cause Type 1 Diabetes?

No. Obesity does not cause Type 1 diabetes. However, obese patients with Type 1 diabetes may experience higher rates of complications from the disease, like kidney damage, nerve damage, or stroke. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle helps with the management of Type 1 diabetes.


What Are the Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is rare and usually occurs earlier in life. The cause of Type 1 diabetes links to autoimmune or genetic factors. Patients with Type 1 diabetes typically don't have other weight-related conditions, like hypertension or sleep apnea. Type 1 diabetes often goes undiagnosed until severe symptoms occur.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes usually begins in adulthood. However, as obesity rates have increased in children, diabetes in younger patients have increased. According to the American Diabetes Association, being overweight raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Obese patients benefit from regular checks for diabetes.

Other Factors That Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Diabetes

Weight is only one contributing factor for diabetes. In fact, many of the other contributing factors for diabetes can also lead to weight gain.

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Physical activity level
  • Diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain infections, like HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and some cancers

Patients can reduce their chances of getting diabetes by changing their habits and their lifestyle. These include eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, maintaining an average weight, and avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol excessively. 

If you already know you're at increased risk because of family history or other contributing factors, talk with your doctor about what steps you should take to lower your risk further.

What Are Symptoms of Diabetes?

Like many diseases or illnesses, the symptoms don't raise a red flag until they become extreme. Untreated diabetes can cause long-term complications.

For obese patients, heeding the early warning signs and symptoms can prevent life-threatening problems. 


Diabetes Symptoms

  • Increased thirst
  • More frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that heal slower
  • Numbness in the hands or feet
  • Increased tiredness
  • Unexpected weight loss


Complications from Diabetes

  • Nerve damage
  • Stroke, heart attack, and heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney Disease
  • Damage to eyes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Loss of toes or feet


Don't ignore the warning signs of diabetes. The stakes are too high, and your health and future matter. Especially for obese patients, regular doctor visits can protect your future with an early diagnosis.

Can Undiagnosed Diabetes Cause Weight Gain?

Yes. Patients can develop symptoms related to excess fat accumulation rather than excessive blood sugar levels. If these symptoms aren't severe, undiagnosed diabetics will likely continue gaining weight even though their blood sugar levels remain within acceptable limits.

Likewise, some undiagnosed patients experience unexplained weight loss. The body begins burning fat or muscle to replace the energy loss from the lack of glucose. 

Unexplained changes in weight act as a warning sign that you may have a health issue. Whether you gain or lose weight unexpectedly, schedule a check-in with your healthcare provider. 

Living with Diabetes

If you think you might have diabetes, contact your healthcare provider right away. They'll perform tests to inform their diagnosis. Once you've received a positive diagnosis, you'll need to manage your blood sugar levels through proper nutrition, exercise, medication, and regular checkups.

While there's no cure for Type 2 diabetes, healthy lifestyle choices can improve the condition. Overweight patients experience positive results with weight loss. Work with your doctor on the right plan for you to achieve long-lasting health and avoid the complications of diabetes.


About the Author:


Anthony Cerullo | Medical Professional

Founders Family Medicine and Urgent Care

Phone:  303-688-8666

Email:  foundersfamilymedicine@gmail.com

Website: www.foundersfamilymedicine.com

Bio: I am dedicated to family practice and trauma medicine in the rural communities surrounding Idaho Springs, and the last few years in the Southwest Denver region.







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