What is the Relationship Between Obesity and Diabetes?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 May 2018
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The link between obesity and diabetes is not fully understood, but may be caused by an increase in free fatty acids that is often found in overweight individuals. These fatty acids cause elevated insulin levels that are believed to disrupt the body’s normal reaction to glucose. This type of diabetes is referred to as type 2 diabetes. The connection between increased fatty acids as the cause of type 2 diabetes is the topic of much scientific debate, but most research shows that it is at least a contributing factor, if not the direct cause.

Increased levels of fatty acids cause the production of a receptor identified as GPR40. This receptor is typically found only in people who are obese. Case studies conducted on mice found that the mice that had high levels of fatty acid did in fact also have the receptor, and in turn developed both diabetes and liver disease. Mice with normal levels of fatty acids did not have GPR40 and were able to metabolize their food without weight gain or development of diabetes. Studies are under way to develop a way to stop the occurrence of the GPR40 in people who are overweight, which would possibly eliminate the link between obesity and diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes is believed to account for more than 90 percent of all diabetes. It typically occurs in people over 40 years of age who are also overweight. Statistics seem to show that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children who have both obesity and diabetes. Some physicians claim that the world is currently seeing an epidemic of these two conditions.

People who are overweight and suffering from type 2 diabetes might significantly reduce their risk by losing weight. Clinical studies seemed to show that more than 60 percent of type 2 diabetes sufferers who returned to normal weight had a remission of diabetes. This remission seemed to offer even more proof of a significant link between obesity and diabetes.

There are many health risks associated with type 2 diabetes, but the biggest concern is the development of heart disease. More than three-quarters of all deaths in people suffering from type 2 diabetes are related to heart and cardiovascular disease. In addition, kidney disease and kidney failure are sometimes linked to diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is considered preventable. Following a healthy diet and maintaining normal weight seem to be key, as does following a reasonable exercise plan. In an effort to help combat obesity and diabetes, many schools serve lunches that are high in protein and fiber and low in sugars and carbohydrates. Many restaurants post menus that disclose the nutrient content of the foods they serve.



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