Can obesity increase the risk of diabetes?

Obesity is a risk factor of type 2 diabetes as well as any of the following:
  • People with prediabetes (impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG))
  • People over age 45
  • People with a family history of diabetes
  • People who do not exercise regularly
  • People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
  • Women who had gestational diabetes, or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth
Find out if you are at risk for prediabetes or diabetes at
Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics

Obesity is the result of an accumulation of excess body fat. When a person is obese, particularly in the abdomen, this can result in a condition known as insulin resistance. What happens is the body's cells become resistant to insulin mostly due the excess body fat resulting in the inability of sugar to enter body cells and be used for energy. Instead the sugar stays in the blood and wreaks havoc on the body. Fasting (no food for at least 12 hours) blood sugar levels of 126 or greater results in a diagnosis of diabetes. Obesity is a major risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes, and loss of body fat, even small amounts, can have a significantly positive impact on fasting blood sugar levels. So one should work closely with a nutritionist or dietitian and their physician to come up with a plan to lose weight and body fat through healthy eating and exercise program. Please note, currently one in three Americans are obese and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that by the year 2050 one in three Americans will be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

Yes, more than 80 percent of people with diabetes are overweight or obese. According to the Surgeon General’s report, gaining just 11 to 18 pounds increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes to twice that of people who have not gained weight.
Diabetes is a condition that keeps the body from regulating blood sugar. Type 1 or juvenile diabetes usually begins early in life. Type 2 diabetes is often referred to as adult-onset diabetes. This type of diabetes is directly linked to age, obesity, inactivity, and family history. In the US, diabetes affects more than 23.6 million children and adults in the United States—7.8 percent of the populationhas diabetes and about one-third of those with diabetes don’t know they have it.  
About 80 to 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.  However, losing the extra pounds helps manage blood glucose levels and improves diabetes.  While type 2 diabetes may be prevented and managed with weight loss, changes in diet, and regular physical activity, sometimes medication is necessary.
Without proper treatment, type 2 diabetes is the cause of complications such as coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations.  Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. Obesity can cause resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. When obesity causes insulin resistance, the body's blood sugar level becomes elevated. Even moderate obesity dramatically increases the risk of diabetes.

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One result of increased obesity among children is an associated increase in rates of type 2 diabetes, which used to be seen solely in adulthood. For children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, early intervention and treatment are a must. The sooner the family learns what the child needs to eat and how to manage all other aspects of the disease, the better off the child will be.

In fact, the entire family should consider eating in the same fashion as the child, because managing type 2 diabetes involves moderation, variety, and balance. Physical activity is also a major part of managing diabetes, and everyone can take part in this as well. Taking a family walk or bike ride after dinner and enjoying weekend games of basketball or tennis instead of turning on the TV are excellent ways to teach the importance of physical activity. The child is more likely to feel supported and succeed with keeping his or her diabetes under control if everyone in the family is educated about what to do to help.

Family Running in Park
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Visceral fat in the abdominal area and surrounding internal organs can increase inflammation, which may lead to heart disease and diabetes. If a person has subcutaneous fat on the legs and hips, it may not be as harmful. However, in general it's best to maintain a normal weight to prevent future health problems. Diabetes is an expensive health problem. It's best to avoid it or control it. 

Obesity is not only a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease; it also plays a central role in diabetes insulin resistance and has been linked to high blood pressure (another risk factor for diabetes). If you are overweight, losing those extra pounds will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, improve your sensitivity to insulin, and help you to control your blood sugar levels.

Talk with your physician about an appropriate weight loss plan to help you manage your diabetes.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The more excess weight on your body, the less sensitive your cells become to insulin, the hormone that manages the movement of sugar into your cells. Being overweight puts you at huge risk for developing type 2 diabetes, where your body’s cells become resistant to insulin and cannot function properly as a result. By getting active and controlling your weight, you can increase your response to insulin. A weight loss of 10 pounds can reduce your chance of getting diabetes by 60%.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.