The Correlation Between Diabetes And Obesity

We all know that obesity is an epidemic that is on the rise; 61% of the population in the U.S. is considered overweight or obese. Diabetes obesity is also a growing health threat. With obesity comes a number of resulting health issues, and among them, type II diabetes.

From 1985-1995, the number of people being diagnosed with type II, or adult onset, diabetes has increased by 78% worldwide. This used to be a disease for older and middle aged people, but this is no longer the case. According to a Yale study done in 2002, 25% of obese children in the U.S. are already glucose intolerant, putting them at high risk for the development of type II diabetes.

What is Type II and What Causes it?

People with type II produce insulin, but they either don’t produce enough, or their bodies can’t adequately use the insulin produced. A person may consume so much fat and sugar that in effort to keep things under control, the body tries to compensate with excessive glucose output from the liver. Excessive glucose stimulates the production of more insulin, which disturbs the sugar balance in the blood, prompting more binge-type eating. Over time, the reaction to insulin becomes impaired and type II develops.

This disease is also a progressive one, meaning that it gets increasingly worse from the time of diagnosis. Type II diabetes is commonly paired with other health problems such as hypertension, high levels of fat in the blood, cardiovascular disease, and central obesity, and is so common, it has been labeled a metabolic syndrome. Approximately 24% of adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.


The age of diagnosis is getting younger and younger, and families in our country are facing a lifetime of complications from this disease. Health problems caused by type II diabetes include:

  • coronary artery disease
  • cerebrovascular disease
  • stroke
  • hypertension
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • kidney disease
  • eye disorders (sometimes even blindness)

These are life threatening results from a sedentary lifestyle and high caloric intake. There is a genetic predisposition to both type I and type II diabetes, however, in the majority of type II cases, obesity is to blame. Obesity can generally be defined as a person’s Body Mass Index, or BMI, being above 30, and anything above 40 is defined as morbidly obese.

What Can We Do About it?

With all of this doomsday talk, it is hard to feel like there is hope for us and for our children, but the future looks bright. Research has shown that regular physical activity not only reduces the risk of developing type II, but increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This means that if diagnosed, with careful diet and exercise plans, type II can be practically eliminated.

The effects of some simple lifestyle changes can be huge when dealing with this disease. It is important to teach our children good nutrition and exercise habits, and the best way to teach is by example. It shouldn’t be looked at as a diet, or temporary weight loss program, but rather as a way of life.

 *All statistical data was taken from Advanced Physical Assessment and Exercise Prescription by Vivian H. Heyward, 2006


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