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Obesity and Diabetes: Connection, Risk, and Management

Medical Content Writer
Arzu Cetinkaya Medical Content Writer
Obesity and Diabetes: Connection, Risk, and Management

Every extra weight on the scale increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. What symptoms you should pay attention to.

People with obesity have an increased risk of comorbidities. A typical consequence of obesity is type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disease in which too much sugar accumulates in the blood. Many people simply refer to it as diabetes. Read the following blog post to find out why being overweight can lead to type 2 diabetes and what else you should look out for.

What exactly is diabetes?

With diabetes, the body is no longer able to break down blood sugar in sufficient quantities. In a healthy body, the pancreas produces sufficient insulin and ensures a balanced blood sugar level. This does not work for diabetics. There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes: This type usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. The cause is an autoimmune disease. In type 1 diabetics, the pancreas produces no or very little insulin. Insulin is an important messenger substance in the body. It ensures that the body can properly utilise the food it consumes. Around 373,000 affected people in Germany therefore have to inject insulin regularly throughout their lives.

Type 2 diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs much more frequently than type 1, with around 90 per cent of all affected people suffering from type 2. In contrast to type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is often lifestyle-related: Insufficient exercise and a poor diet are among the main causes. High blood pressure, pregnancy, advanced age and certain medications can also favour the development of diabetes. People who are overweight have almost three times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes due to obesity: You should be aware of these symptoms

If you are overweight, you should always watch out for sudden symptoms. In diabetes, however, they are rather unspecific. Typical first signs are severe thirst, tiredness or dry skin. This is why diabetes is often diagnosed very late. With a simple test, your doctor can determine whether you have diabetes or a pre-diabetes condition.

Other symptoms include:

  • strong urge to urinate
  • nausea
  • listlessness
  • reduced performance
  • susceptibility to infection
  • dizziness
  • visual disturbances
  • poor healing wounds

How are obesity and type 2 diabetes related?

Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. In addition to genetic causes, doctors suspect the following connection between diabetes and obesity:

Too much fatty tissue can lead to constant small inflammations in the body. These chronic inflammations appear to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. You don’t feel the inflammation, but it is not good for the body as it makes it more difficult for the hormone insulin to regulate the sugar levels in the blood. If the body’s own insulin no longer works properly, this is known as insulin resistance, which can also be hereditary. After eating, too much sugar remains in the blood. As a result, the pancreas has to produce more and more insulin. At some point, the insulin-producing cells are exhausted and type 2 diabetes can develop.

Why can obesity lead to insulin resistance?

The biggest culprits are fat cells, especially those in the abdominal fat. They release certain messenger substances. As a result, the enzyme hexokinase 2, which normally breaks down the sugar in the tissue, is no longer produced in sufficient quantities. The body develops insulin resistance. However, insulin is necessary to transport the sugar from the blood into the cells and process it there.

The main cause of too much abdominal fat is an unbalanced, high-fat diet and too little exercise. An unfavourable diet not only restricts the removal and breakdown of sugar in fatty tissue. The sugar metabolism in the liver also becomes unbalanced. The liver produces more sugar than in people of normal weight who eat a balanced diet. The changes in the metabolism of fatty tissue and liver inevitably lead to a permanently elevated blood sugar level, i.e. diabetes.

Obesity and diabetes: An “evil” rarely comes alone

The main symptom of diabetes is high blood sugar levels. However, many people who are (very) overweight also suffer from high blood pressure and a disturbed fat metabolism. Each of these factors alone – and even more so in combination – can damage your blood vessels. They become constricted and can even become completely “blocked”. Your heart in particular is dependent on good blood circulation so that it can beat strongly and rhythmically in the long term. If it is poorly supplied with blood, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency or, in the worst case, a heart attack can occur over time. In order to recognise and treat vascular risks at an early stage, it is important that you have your metabolic control, lipid values and blood pressure checked at regular intervals.

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

Depending on your physical condition or age, in many cases it is sufficient to lose weight, change your diet and exercise more. In some cases, severely overweight people have to take medication permanently, inject insulin or combine the two. Patient training programmes in which patients learn to live healthier lives together with others have proved successful. Whether type 2 diabetes in overweight people can be completely prevented with the “right” diet and plenty of exercise has not yet been conclusively clarified scientifically.