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What is the Connection Between Diabetes and Weight?

There appears to be a strong connection between some types of diabetes and weight. Obesity in particular is a high risk factor for type 2 and gestational diabetes. Being overweight can both increase the likelihood of developing these types of diabetes and impact treatments for them. Losing weight has proven to be an effective approach in managing and even preventing type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a normal weight, however, does not guarantee a person will avoid diabetes; some studies have shown that this condition is particularly prevalent among thin, elderly people.

Medical studies draw a correlation between being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body produces insufficient insulin or does not use it effectively. Obesity makes it harder for insulin to control glucose levels, a cycle that may eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. Researchers continue to study precisely why this occurs in overweight people, but common theories suggest that extra weight changes the body’s molecular function compared to someone of average weight. Added and larger fat cells in overweight persons likely impact how glucose is processed and serve to upset blood sugar levels.

Type 2 diabetes and weight further are connected in treatments for the condition. Physicians regularly recommend that obese type 2 diabetics lose weight to help control the disease. Weight management can lessen type 2 diabetes severity. Some people even experience total disappearance of all diabetes indicators when they lose weight.

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Gestational diabetes and weight also have a connection. Excessive weight gain in the first trimester especially poses a risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women who are already overweight or obese before becoming pregnant are more likely to have gestational diabetes. Women can lessen the risk of developing this form of diabetes by maintaining a normal weight before becoming pregnant.

In other instances, there is little connection between diabetes and weight. This is especially true for type 1 diabetics. This form, often referred to as juvenile diabetes, is genetically based, and weight plays a negligible role in who suffers from the condition.

While much of the focus on diabetes and weight centers on obesity, there are also risk factors for older people who are underweight. A 2008 study, for example, showed that underweight people ages 60 to 79 were more likely than their normal weight counterparts to develop type 2 diabetes. Researchers attributed this partly to age, noting that the same phenomenon was not observed in younger populations. Poor nutrition, which impacts the body’s insulin level, among some thin elderly people also may be a contributing factor in developing type 2 diabetes.

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