Overweight and obesity are serious global health issues. It is estimated that worldwide, some 1.1 billion adults are overweight, of which 312 million are categorized as obese. Until recently, obesity and other weight issues used to be a disease confined to only Europe and North America. But in the last 20 years, thanks largely to wholesale adoption of western lifestyle, the number of overweight and obese people in the developing countries has more than tripled, with Southeast Asia, the Middle East, India and China facing the greatest risks.
These are serious health issues in their own rights. And to make matters worse, overweight and obesity are now frequently associated with the risk of developing diabetes. As the numbers of obese people continue to rise worldwide, the number of people living with diabetes is also expected to increase from an estimated 84 million in 2000 to over 200 million by the year 2030.
No assumption is made here to the effect that EVERY obese person will develop diabetes or that non-obese people will never come down with the disease. Studies have found that people with normal weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) can and do develop diabetes, just as some who are confirmed to be obese never show any symptoms of the disease. These are all due to certain genetic factors. But the numbers are not encouraging. The general direction of findings on the matter is that being overweight greatly increases the chances that a person will develop both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
A 7-year study conducted in Finland discovered that even for individuals who stand some risks of developing diabetes, such as those whose parents suffered from it, intensive lifestyle changes can cut the risk by as much as 58%. Thus, at the moment, preventing obesity is seen as a high priority for the prevention of diabetes and other chronic diseases. The hope is that slowing the rising incidence of obesity worldwide will concurrently slow the global diabetes epidemic.
But what about people who already have diabetes? As pointed out earlier, lifestyle changes will do them a lot of good. These are changes specifically targeted at shedding excess weight. As professor Cathy Nonas of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City puts it "no matter how heavy you are, you will significantly lower your blood sugar if you lose some weight."
No, weight loss will not provide the complete answer for improving blood glucose control. But since obesity and genetic predisposition are strongly implicated in type 2 diabetes, doesn't it make sense to attack one of the factors that's within one's control-your weight? Experts agree that both overweight diabetics and those who are at risk should target weight reduction of 5% or more, reduce total fat intake to less than 30% of total calories, and engage in at least 4 hours of physical activity each week. This should be continued even after all visible signs of the ailment appear to have disappeared. It is this form of sustained lifestyle changes that has worked wonders for many diabetics.
There can be no question about it: If you're overweight and have diabetes, especially type 2, dropping excess pounds will surely lower your blood sugar, improve your health, and help you feel better. But before embarking on any diabetes weight loss plan, it is very important to work closely with your doctor. This is mainly because your blood sugar, insulin, and medications need to be closely monitored by an expert.