Obesity causes diabetes, or more specifically, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body develops a resistance to insulin, a substance that allows blood sugar, or glucose, to enter cells, where the glucose is converted into energy. Type 2 diabetes impairs the transfer of blood glucose into the cells, causing excessively high blood sugar levels.
Children and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes was once known as “adult onset diabetes” because the disease was rare before adulthood. Childhood obesity statistics don’t currently include numbers for childhood diabetes and obesity, but rates of childhood type 2 diabetes appear to be rising.
Type 2 Diabetes Complications
Type 2 diabetes and obesity cause serious health complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Fact Sheet (2005), the risk of the following increase among diabetics:
- Amputations: Nerve damage causing impaired sensations in the extremities increases the risk of amputation in diabetics.
- Blindness: Diabetes causes 12,000 to 24,000 cases of blindness annually.
- Heart disease: Rates of heart disease are two to four times higher in diabetic adults than in their non-diabetic counterparts.
- Hypertension: 73 percent of diabetics have high blood pressure, as well.
- Kidney disease: 44 percent of new kidney failure cases are attributed to diabetes.
- Nerve damage: Up to 70 percent of people with diabetes develop some degree of nervous system damage.
- Periodontal disease: One-third of people with diabetes experience severe gum disease.
- Stroke: The risk of stroke in diabetics is two to four times higher than those without diabetes.
Several complications of type 2 diabetes are also possible side effects of obesity, including heart disease, hypertension and stroke.
A combination of diabetes and obesity increases the risk of these shared complications to higher levels than obesity or diabetes alone.
Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms
Overweight or obese individuals should be able to identify symptoms of type 2 diabetes, such as:
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Patches of darkened skin, usually around the armpit and neck
- Slow-healing sores
- Weight loss.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
Many potential side effects of obesity can be avoided by losing weight, and diabetes is no exception. Although weight loss won’t make you immune to diabetes, it will reduce your risk of developing this condition. For those already diagnosed with obesity and diabetes, losing weight may reduce diabetes symptoms.
Regular exercise and a diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables will also reduce the risk of diabetes. The combination of diabetes and obesity is a dangerous one, which can also be avoided.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). National diabetes fact sheet. Retrieved June 3, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2005.pdf.
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Type 2 diabetes in children. Retrieved June 3, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-2-diabetes-in-children/DS00946.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Type 2 diabetes. Retrieved June 3, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000313.htm.