Does it seem like more and more people are being diagnosed with diabetes? One look at the statistics, and it’s clear that, in fact, they are. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and more than 20 million Americans have been diagnosed with it. So what’s the reason for the spike and how do we prevent it? Experts are pointing to weight as a key factor.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way in which the body metabolizes glucose. Insulin is a hormone found in the body that regulates the movement of sugar into cells. Patients with type 2 diabetes are either insulin-resistant or do not produce enough insulin to maintain a healthy glucose level.
Diabetes is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer” because patients often do not experience severe symptoms. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 7 million people with diabetes have not been diagnosed.
Who Does It Affect?
While there is no surefire way to predict if someone will develop type 2 diabetes, several key factors have been closely linked with the disease, the first of which is a person’s weight. Being overweight is very commonly associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, as the more fatty tissue there is on the body, the more insulin resistant cells become.
Similarly, inactivity can be linked to the disease, as exercise is important in maintaining a healthy weight and effectively using glucose as energy, rather than storing it as fat.
Individuals with a family history of type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing diabetes themselves. What’s more, risk increases with age and has been especially notable in people older than 45. Data also shows that individuals of certain races, including African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Asian Americans are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. However, the reason for this is unknown.
Effects of Weight Loss
While type 2 diabetes is a very serious disease, it can be reversed (eliminates the need to take medication) with some hard work. One of the easiest, most effective ways to treat and prevent type 2 diabetes is through healthy weight loss. As being overweight and inactive is a common trigger, getting active and shedding extra pounds can be incredibly beneficial.
While the prospect of losing weight may sound intimidating to some, taking small steps is a good way to begin and see benefits. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes lost a small amount of weight and maintained an active lifestyle for three years, they could prevent type 2 diabetes. For individuals who already have type 2 diabetes, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can be effective in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat.
In special cases, individuals who lost a significant amount of weight and maintained regular exercise were able to stop taking medication for type 2 diabetes. It is recommended to lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight and getting in at least 150 minutes of exercise every week. This will help the body run more efficiently be more receptive to insulin.
Study Shows Weight Loss Cures Diabetes
A study focused on the effects of weight loss on type 2 diabetes looked at individuals who exercised for 175 minutes per week, limited calorie intake to under 1,800 calories per day, and received weekly counseling on lifestyle changes. After one year, the study showed that 10 percent of the individuals were able to stop taking medication for their diabetes. What’s more, the results tended to be better for individuals who lost the most weight.
Dr. Osama Hamdy, medical director of the Obesity Clinical Program at Joslin, notes that exercise can have an impressive result on diabetic patients. “Diabetics should consider exercise as a prescription; it is cheap and extremely effective,” he said. Dr. Hamdy found that when obese type 2 diabetics lost seven percent of their body weight, their insulin sensitivity improved by 57 percent.