The Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity

Obesity DiabetesDiabetes and obesity both have the dubious distinction of becoming an epidemic in the Western world, affecting both old and young.  Their closest relationships are with the Western diet and lifestyle, and with each other.

Modern medicine has recently advised that possession of a waistline measuring 40 inches or more is a definition of obesity.  Still more disquieting for the overweight person is the suggestion that the body shape that includes a large tummy is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes has been referred to as “maturity onset” diabetes because it usually manifests later in life.  Unfortunately, recent trends have shown a huge increase in the development of this kind of diabetes in young people, as they are also increasingly involved in the obesity epidemic.  Physicians are reporting more young children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which was previously seen almost exclusively in older people.

The Western diet, and especially that of the United States, is particularly conducive to the increase in obesity and diabetes.  High in sugars, fats and carbohydrates that have been so thoroughly processed that they barely retain any nutrition other than “empty calories,” it has led to some frightening statistics.  One-third of residents in at least 12 American states are now classified as obese, with childhood obesity approaching 25 percent in some states.  An obese child has an 80 percent likelihood of becoming an obese adult, and studies have suggested that the longer a person is overweight, the greater the likelihood of developing diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells cease or begin to cease responding to the stimulation of the hormone insulin, which prompts them to take up glucose from the blood supply and store it.  This may also include an insufficient supply of insulin being produced by the pancreas.

Obese people became that way because of their poor diet and lack of portion control.  Imagine a person sitting down to a big plate of pancakes oozing with maple syrup.  The food is a health disaster in many ways: high in sugar, fat and refined white flour.  As the food is ingested, the sugars are taken into the bloodstream, causing a “sugar spike.” The pancreas immediately responds by flooding the bloodstream with insulin to cause the sugars to be taken up and stored.  Back to low blood sugar again.

This pattern of “high-low-high” blood and insulin levels in the blood may be repeated so frequently, in the case of a person who habitually overeats sugary foods, that it eventually causes the cells’ response to slow and cease.  This is type 2 diabetes, and it is one reason why diabetes is so closely associated with obesity.  A lifestyle that includes high-calorie, sugar-rich foods and little exercise is likely to lead to both conditions.

Now consider an alternative snack: a plate of egg salad.  The green leaves of the salad are full of dietary fiber, as well as many health-giving micronutrients, and the egg is rich in protein and fat.  Both constituents will make the eater feel full and satisfied, but without the sugar spike and insulin response found with the pancakes.  Dietary changes like this could save many a person from going on to develop diabetes.

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