The link between diabetes and obesity

Le 25 July 2017

Diabetes is a condition characterized by excessively high levels of blood sugar due to poor management of insulin. 

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 (or insulin-dependent) diabetes is an autoimmune condition that appears mainly in children or young adults, and is probably linked to genetic or environmental factors. Type 2 (or non-insulin-dependent) diabetes is the most common form of diabetes (making up 90% of cases), and more commonly appears in adults over the age of 40. Risk factors are excess weight, obesity, and a lack of physical activity.

According to the WHO, in 2014 there were more than 600 million obese adults worldwide.Those with a BMI of 30 or over are classified as being obese.

The link between obesity/excess weight and diabetes


Those with obesity are three times more likely to be diabetic than those who are not obese. What is the link between obesity and diabetes? 

The greater the quantity of excess weight, the more fat there is in the body. In parallel with this, blood sugar increases. In this situation, it is that the fat ends up providing the muscles with energy rather than the glucose, leading to an increase in glucose (or sugar) in the blood. The pancreas then overproduces insulin in an effort to reduce the excessive levels of blood sugar. However, it reaches a point where it cannot produce enough to satisfy the need. This means that blood sugar is no longer regulated by insulin.  This, in turn, leads to hyperglycemia, as well as the development of diabetes. Therefore, among those with obesity, diabetes is indeed a consequence of excess weight.         


Health risks


The combination of obesity and diabetes can have serious consequences, in particular in the case of abdominal obesity which has been proven to be the most problematic for the health.

Common complications are cardiovascular risks. Indeed, 80% of diabetics die of cardiovascular complications. The high-fat foods often eaten by those who are overweight can lead to fatty deposits in the arteries, which harden and calcify over time, forming what is known as arterial plaque or clogged arteries. This plaque can end up damaging the arterial wall, causing the obstruction of the vessel which may then rupture, with dramatic consequences for the patient (heart attack or stroke).

Similarly, the excess weight and obesity that is responsible for diabetes may be the cause of obstruction of the arteries in the lower limbs (arteritis) which causes a loss in nerve sensitivity and an inability to heal wounds on the feet due to a lack of oxygenation. This is why some diabetics are at risk of amputation, something which could be avoided by better prevention and by paying particular attention to the feet.

Eye problems are also a risk, such as cataracts or even a total loss of eyesight. Indeed, diabetes is the primary medical cause of blindness under the age of 50 in developed countries.




There are several approaches that can be taken to fight against these conditions. The most common recommendation is a change in lifestyle. It has been proven that by eating a healthier diet and doing regular physical activity, abdominal fat reduces, resulting in an improved blood and lipid profile (a reduction in bad cholesterol), a reduction in blood pressure and an improvement in blood sugar control.

A drugs-based approach is also possible, but only in cases where patients present a significant cardiovascular risk, such as high blood pressure. These drugs aim to limit absorption of fatty acids, and can only be prescribed alongside a low-fat diet.





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