What You'll Learn Here:
~ by Jo Jordan
Diabetes and obesity: Everyone’s talking about them. Recently, they’ve become favored buzzwords in the media. And so strong and obvious is the link between them that a new term has been coined describing these epidemics as a single entity: diabesity. But what do these two conditions have in common?
One third of American children born in 2000 expected to become diabetic.1 Nearly two thirds of American adults are considered overweight or obese.2 The CDC reports that over 200,000 people die each year of diabetes-related complications.3 So if you’re planning to be around when your kids graduate from high school, it’s worth being in-the-know about the undeniable link between these health problems.
Obesity and Diabetes: Cause and Effect?
So, what is the specific connection between these twenty-first century ailments? Does obesity cause diabetes? Or vice versa? While excess body weight is certainly a risk factor for a variety of serious illnesses, the link between obesity and diabetes has less to do with being overweight than it has to do with the location of someone’s fat.
According to research carried out at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts, central obesity or central weight gain (apple-shaped obesity) is the main culprit in the link between diabetes and obesity. The same cannot be said for hip and thigh weight gain (pear-shaped obesity).4 A major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, obesity is associated with metabolic syndrome-a cluster of disorders linked to insulin resistance and central obesity. These include circulating lipid abnormalities and fatty liver, hypertension, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and impaired glucose tolerance.5
Furthermore, a variety of studies conducted to discover the effect of weight loss on blood glucose levels illustrate that,6
- Glucose tolerance can be improved in overweight individuals by reducing abdominal fat; and
- Weight loss obtained through lifestyle changes decreases blood glucose levels and HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) in type 2 diabetics.
Obesity, Hormone Activity, and Diabetes
Endocrine system glands (including pineal, pituitary, thyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, ovary, and testes) secrete hormones into our bloodstream. For example, the pancreas releases insulin when we eat in order to unlock the body’s cells, and enable glucose to enter and fuel them.
Abdominal fat operates much like an endocrine gland, secreting hormones and other chemicals. Unfortunately, these secretions hamper the digestive process, resulting in abnormally high levels of insulin. This is seriously bad news for those with central body weight issues.
This abundance of insulin in the system sets into motion a cycle of dysfunction. The secretions trigger inflammation and, since insulin is a growth hormone, weight gain is inevitable. As a person becomes heavier, their body needs more insulin, and eventually they become insulin-resistant. Over time, diabetes can develop.
But the antics of abdominal fat on hormone activity don’t end there. In December 2003, the Journal of Endocrinology reported that for obesity to result in type 2 diabetes, the presence of MSH – melanocyte-stimulating hormone, secreted by the anterior pituitary gland – is necessary.
The study established for the first time the link between MSH and blood sugar, concluding that obese people with high levels of MSH may be more likely to be diabetic than obese people with low levels of MSH.7
What Can Be Done to End Diabesity?
While the diabesity epidemic is terribly worrisome, now that a clear link has been established between the two conditions, it’s possible to take action. Obviously, keeping weight down is vital, especially if your tendency is to gain weight around the middle.
Learning about diabetes prevention is extremely important, since physical activity and striving for a healthy body weight may prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes; careful nutritional monitoring can even prevent or delay complications from diabetes.
Overeating and lack of physical activity are primary risk factors for both obesity and diabetes. But it’s also helpful to know that certain minerals and vitamins affect insulin function and the metabolizing of glucose. Yet many of us are deficient in the very nutrients we need to properly digest our food. A daily multi-vitamin can help to correct any nutrient deficiencies.
If you’re nutritionally deficient – which many of us are due to the fact that much of what we commonly eat is devoid of any nutrition, then you’ll always be searching for something to eat. With the proper intake of vitamins, you may notice a decrease in your hunger level and your desire to eat.
Sufficient fiber intake is believed to reduce the risk of diabetes by improving blood sugar control, and promoting weight loss. And if you’re overweight, your bowel movements are likely irregular. Some research suggests that the average person has between five and twenty-five pounds of waste trapped their colon. When you cleanse your colon of this waste and speed up your bowel transit time, you may shed a few pounds, and be on your way to better overall health and wellness.