Obesity is an epidemic in the world today. Diabetes is also on the rise. Is there a correlation between the two? The experts say that there is and that you need to know about it. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Diabetes is a condition of the body where insulin production is affected in some way. Insulin production may be non-existent or in limited quantities, or the body may be resistant to using the produced insulin. Let’s go back a step.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas in response to blood sugar levels. Insulin directs the sugar in the blood to different sites in the body where it is used for fuel. Therefore, depending on the amount of sugar in the blood, more insulin is produced to deal with the issue.
With Type 2 diabetes, the body has developed a resistance to the insulin it produces. As a result, when the blood sugar levels remain high, the body produces more insulin to deal with it. Even with the overabundance of insulin being produced, the amount that overcomes the resistance may still not be enough to deal with the blood sugar levels. This is called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, and it affects mainly adults above the age of 45.
Environmental factors can bring on type 2 diabetes. It develops late in life for most people. Researchers have found connections between obese people and the rise in diabetes cases. Being obese increases the likelihood that certain diseases will occur. People who carry excess weight are at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and joint problems.
It is not just eating too much but also the types of foods we eat. Eating an overabundance of vegetables is not the root problem. Processed foods, sugary snacks, soft drinks, and fatty foods increase glucose levels in the blood. More and more insulin is needed to deal with it.
The body’s metabolic system is out of whack. With the increased risk of so many conditions, the body is more prone to developing insulin-resistant diabetes. Once you develop diabetes, other things come into play, such as the slower rate of wound healing and the need to manage your blood sugar. There is hope, though.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed and sometimes reversed with weight management. Losing just ten percent of your body weight can stop the medication used to control specific conditions. (This is huge!) In addition, insulin resistance can decrease or disappear when an obese person returns to a weight in the range of the acceptable BMI.
Being obese carries the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Losing weight reduces that risk or eliminates it, as well as the risk of some other serious diseases.
People who eat a lot of meat and sweets, drink a lot of alcohol, and do little exercise run the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Doctors also refer to it as the “deadly quartet” because there are four leading causes: too much abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar and blood fat levels. The secondary diseases: Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer. Blood and urine tests help with early detection.
Abdominal fat produces hormones that disrupt metabolism.
The most visible sign of a possible metabolic syndrome is abdominal obesity. Abdominal fat is considered particularly dangerous. A team of researchers led by Gary Whitlock of Oxford University has shown that any excess over the body mass index (BMI) of 25, which is considered normal, significantly increases the risk of death. The reason: abdominal fat, unlike other body fat, produces hormones that intervene directly in the metabolism. In the worst case, the body reacts with insensitivity to insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels can no longer drop, blood fat levels and blood pressure rise, and fluid balance in the vascular system is disturbed. Possible consequences: Diabetes, heart attack, stroke or cancer. It often takes years without any symptoms before this point is reached. Only when the vessels have already narrowed considerably do heart palpitations, venous weakness in the legs, fatigue, and listlessness or the first signs of diabetes, such as constant thirst, appear.
Blood tests clarify individual risk.
The doctor diagnoses metabolic syndrome with the help of blood and urine tests to determine blood sugar and blood fat levels. In addition, BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure are checked. If three of the five values are too high, the blood plasma level is also determined to detect a possible vascular disease. The main things that help against metabolic syndrome are a healthy diet and plenty of exercises.
Fat triggers inflammatory reactions and growth factors
“Abdominal fat is hazardous in terms of cancer development,” says DKFZ metabolic expert Mathias Heikenwälder. “That’s because this fatty tissue releases messenger substances into the environment that trigger inflammatory reactions and reduce the effect of insulin, so-called adiponectin, and cytokines.”
Some of these messengers also act as growth factors that stimulate other cells to divide, thus promoting tumor growth. In addition, fat cells produce estrogens. In the breast and uterus, the hormones can stimulate cell growth. That’s why overweight women develop breast or uterine cancer at a disproportionately high rate.
“If the metabolic syndrome persists for years, type 2 diabetes can develop, and other common secondary diseases are arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes – and cancer,” says Heikenwälder.
Movement works preventively
On the occasion of World Diabetes Day on November 14, the Cancer Information Service at DKFZ offers advice on reducing health risks. Its director, Susanne Weg-Remers, recommends adjusting one’s lifestyle. “Diet and exercise are the levers that those affected have to pull,” she says. This means, first of all, eating a conscious and balanced diet with a balanced energy intake. Equally crucial, she says, is regular physical activity, preferably 30 minutes a day. “Exercise increases energy consumption and thus helps to reduce excess weight,” she says. “Those who take timely and consistent countermeasures can significantly reduce their risk for cancer and other serious secondary diseases of the metabolic syndrome.”
Type 2 diabetes is on the rise worldwide: the WHO recorded a four-fold increase between 1980 and 2014 – from 108 million people then to 422 million most recently. As a result, world Diabetes Day has been an official United Nations day of action since 2007. The day has been celebrated every year since then on November 14 – it is the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin in 1922, together with Charles Best.
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