Obesity and diabetes: Leading to greater health complications.

* Around one-fourth of all men and women in India are struggling with obesity.

* More than 77 million Indians above the age of 18 years are suffering from Type 2 diabetes.

The above-mentioned two facts might be about two completely different health conditions but have an underlying connection that is often ignored – one of how being obese can increase your chances of developing diabetes. Research studies over the years have established a strong causal relationship between diabetes and obesity. Studies have also highlighted that obesity is a common health risk that can lead to a person developing Type 2 diabetes.

How obesity leads to Diabetes

To understand how being overweight puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes, you first need to understand what the disease is all about.

Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas to move glucose from the blood to either the muscles or the liver. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it means that your body doesn’t produce enough insulin. The lack of insulin will lead to increased blood sugar levels causing health problems like cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, and loss of vision, among others.

Now, if you are obese, the cells in your body will inhibit the movement of insulin which ends up increasing glucose levels in your bloodstream. In addition, the part of the liver where excess glucose is stored is now occupied by fat. With the space in the liver occupied, the excess glucose ends up entering your bloodstream. As the glucose is now stuck in the bloodstream, the pancreas overworks to produce more insulin to do the job. The cycle continues until the pancreas wears out and starts reducing lower levels of insulin which puts you at a higher risk of diabetes.

The ‘unsavory’ side of artificial sweeteners

In the pursuit of a healthy weight, people sometimes also use healthier variants of calorie-heavy ingredients like artificial sweeteners and low-sodium salt. Their USP is that they provide the required taste without impacting your health. Their high demand has created a thriving market for low-calorie products that target calorie-conscious people.

While these products can help you regulate your calorie intake, they’re not ideal for long-term use and can even lead to serious health issues. The WHO recently released guidelines wherein it has advised people against using non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). According to a 2022 study, the sustained and daily usage of artificial sweeteners was found to be linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

There’s a lot of debate about whether artificial sweeteners are worth the hype. The common reason why a doctor might advise you to use one is that artificial sweeteners provide the calories or glucose needed by your body without activating the body’s insulin production – which can lead you to consume more calories to feel full. However, there’s a flipside to this. Now, that your brain has become more tolerant to sweetness means there’s a risk of overeating which might lead to weight gain.

The overconsumption of artificial sweeteners can change your body’s ability to process real sugar by disrupting the functioning of gut microbiota and insulin levels. Over time, such disruption can create conducive conditions for developing conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

Why a healthy lifestyle matters

If you are obese, you can lower your chances of developing diabetes by making a few changes in your lifestyle and diet. These small steps can go a long way in helping you not only control your weight but also improve your overall health. Remember every bit counts, so a small step today can mean a healthy habit after a few weeks and a healthy lifestyle in a couple of months. Here are a few steps that you can take to reduce your chances of developing diabetes:

  1. Exercise more often: Not just weight management, regular exercise can lead to multiple health benefits. When you exercise, it boosts your insulin sensitivity which in turn helps in burning calories and avoiding diabetes.
  2. Watch what you’re eating: You can significantly improve your diabetes-prone health by opting for healthier meals and cutting down on processed foods. Eating more of fiber, cereals and probiotic foods will help you reach your targeted weight faster.
  3. Get enough shuteye: Getting at least six to seven hours of sleep can be crucial to how you manage your weight levels. Lack of adequate sleep can increase insulin resistance which affects hormones that regulate your metabolism and appetite. As a result, you wake up feeling hungrier and may not feel full enough despite having hearty meals.
  4. Cut down smoking: Did you know that the chances of people who smoke developing Type 2 diabetes are 30-40%  higher than those who don’t? Kicking the habit can not only help in weight management but also increase insulin sensitivity. According to doctors, the other benefits associated with giving up smoking include an improved metabolic rate, reduced calorie intake, and higher energy levels.
  5. Maintaining a calorie deficit: When you maintain a calorie deficit, you consume fewer calories than what your body uses up. Rather than opting for a crash diet, consult a certified nutritionist or dietician to get guidance on how you can achieve a healthy balance of calories through your meals.

Many times a person might be obese due to factors that are not related to their diet or exercise routine. Sometimes factors like genetics and underlying health conditions can also impact weight levels. In case your efforts to attain a healthy weight are not yielding results, it is advisable to consult a doctor for guidance. A doctor can help you not only determine a healthy weight but also to build an optimal diet and exercise routine to achieve it.