Diabetes: Part II – Type 2 Diabetes and Weight

As you know, the incidence of Type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide. It is being diagnosed in younger and younger age groups. African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans are especially at risk for developing Type 2. The potential for large groups of people falling to its complications is great. Yet, a healthy lifestyle may delay or even prevent Type 2 diabetes. A healthy lifestyle will certainly minimize the occurrence of complications.


Type 2 diabetes affects the whole body: heart, blood vessels, brain, nervous system, kidneys, urinary tract, skin and eyes. It affects sexual function and fertility.


Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes, and, once Type 2 actually occurs, weight is harder to lose. Individuals with type 2 have a pancreas that seems to function normally. That is, the pancreas produces and secretes insulin in a normal way. However, in the individual with Type 2, insulin is not being used in a normal way by the body.


If a person has risk factors for developing Type 2, for example, a family history of the disease and a low-activity lifestyle, the pancreas is doing its work but the body isn’t. The available insulin is not being delivered to the body as much as it could be because the body isn’t active. So, the pancreas works harder and harder to produce insulin because, with the body’s marvelous feedback system, it is being told that there isn’t enough insulin. Of course, there is enough but it isn’t being used properly so the feedback system isn’t working properly. With poor insulin usage, the body can’t use the food it takes in. This excess is stored as fat. If the person wasn’t overweight to begin with, the excess weight will creep up. Now another risk factor has been added. The problem becomes worse and family history takes over. Type 2 diabetes has become a reality.


The above is an oversimplification of what goes on. There are really a lot of other factors and a lot goes on at the cellular level. Sometimes family history of the disease will cause it to happen even with a healthy lifestyle. HOWEVER, a healthy lifestyle will postpone both its occurrence and complications.


Now, weight. A body that can’t use insulin properly (Type 2 diabetes) will store excess food as fat and excess weight. This excess weight will make it even harder for insulin to be adequately used. When insulin isn’t adequate used, the body stores excess food as fat. And around and around and around.


Exercise is crucial for health.


More on issues related to Type 2 diabetes in later blogs.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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