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The relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that makes it difficult for the body to manage its blood-glucose levels. Diabetes is broken down into two types: type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas cannot adequately produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar; and type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body either resists the effects of insulin or does not produce enough to maintain a normal blood sugar level.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports type 2 diabetes has been occurring with increasing frequency among American children and adolescents over the past 20 years. The Mayo Clinic says 90 percent of diabetes cases are type 2, and 80 percent of these people are overweight.

Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but many people do not know why. There is some evidence that fat cells are more resistant to insulin than muscle cells. In addition, being overweight taxes the body in other ways and can put more pressure on the body’s ability to properly control blood sugar and use insulin.

Carbohydrate-rich diets full of simple sugars and refined foods can cause unhealthy spikes in blood-glucose readings. Individuals who overeat and lead sedentary lifestyles may not burn enough energy, and excess calories are then stored as fat, compounding the problem.

The Obesity Society says type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, and research shows that lifestyle changes that include small amounts of weight loss (between 5 and 10 percent of body weight) can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. In fact, managing weight is the best thing a person can do to reduce their risk for diabetes. Losing as few as 10 pounds can markedly improve insulin resistance and make it much easier to manage blood sugar levels.

In addition to losing weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes. Lean proteins, leafy green vegetables and complex carbohydrates will not spike blood sugar levels. Exercise helps burn calories and boost metabolism, and may even help the body use insulin more effectively.

Type 2 diabetes can be a chronic, debilitating condition that leads to other illnesses. But type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, and losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight are great ways to lower your risk of diabetes.

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