Diabetes & Obesity
According to the Center for Disease Control, we are eating ourselves into a diabetes epidemic. The International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) says that, “Diabetes and obesity are the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century.” The supporting statistics they cite are staggering:
As of 1999, diabetes affected 16 million (six percent) of Americans – an increase of 40 percent in just ten years.
- During the same period, the obesity rate climbed from 12 percent to almost 20 percent.
- Last year the diabetes and obesity rates increased 6 percent and 57 percent.
- Every three seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes.
- Of the children born in 2000, one in three will eventually develop diabetes.
Although both diabetes and obesity risk factors are often associated with race, age, and family history, it’s becoming more and more clear that the conveniences of modern life also contribute to the development of both diseases. For example, sedentary lifestyles (reduced physical activity) and the popularity of high fat, high energy diets (think “Super Size Me”) and convenient foods are known to lead to obesity – but do they also cause diabetes?
Is There a Link Between Obesity and Diabetes?
Of the people diagnosed with type II diabetes, about 80 to 90 percent are also diagnosed as obese. This fact provides an interesting clue to the link between diabetes and obesity. Understanding what causes the disease will hopefully allow us to prevent diabetes in the future.
Being overweight places extra stress on your body in a variety of ways, including your body’s ability to maintain proper blood glucose levels. In fact, being overweight can cause your body to become resistant to insulin. If you already have diabetes, this means you will need to take even more insulin to get sugar into your cells. And if you don’t have diabetes, the prolonged effects of the insulin resistance can eventually cause you to develop the disease.
Will Insulin Make Me Gain Weight?
Weight gain is common in people who take insulin to treat diabetes. That’s because the more insulin you use to maintain your blood glucose level, the more glucose is absorbed into your cells, rather than eliminated by your body. The absorbed glucose is stored as fat, which makes you gain weight. Of course, that just one of the links between insulin and weight gain.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to modify your diet accordingly. Otherwise, it’s probable that you’ll gain weight once you begin taking insulin – which will only compound the problem your body already has maintaining proper blood glucose levels, as well as increase your risk of diabetes-related complications.
In reality, once you begin taking insulin to treat diabetes, you really don’t need as much food. Since your body is using the food properly, rather than wasting it, you should discover that you don’t need as much as you are accustomed to eating. Hopefully, modifying your diet will help you prevent the weight gain often associated with taking insulin. In addition, be sure you monitor your blood glucose levels on a regular basis, as recommended by your physician.
Are There New Treatments for Diabetes and Obesity?
In an effort to close the information gap, a group of researchers from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied the metabolism process in mice. In December 2007, the group reported in Cell Metabolism that mice lacking an enzyme are lean and resistant to weight gain, even when placed on a high-fat diet.
This is good news for everyone because renin-blocking drugs, such as those used to control blood pressure, may also be used eventually to treat diabetes and obesity, as well as insulin resistance. In clinical trials, these drugs are showing positive results when it comes to improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the incidence of type II diabetes.
Prevent Obesity, Prevent Diabetes
To reduce the chances that you will develop diabetes, maintain a healthy weight and increase your physical activity. You may also want to try a diabetes vitamin, specially formulated for people with diabetes.
If you are overweight, even a small weight loss (five to 10 percent) can prevent diabetes – or prolong the chance that you will develop the disease – even if you fall into a high-risk category, according to The Obesity Society. And if you have diabetes, this small weight loss can reduce the amount of medication you need, as well as help prevent common complications associated with diabetes, such as blindness, stroke and heart attacks.
To aid in weight loss, a high fiber, low carbohydrate diet and 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity per day are recommended. Always consult with your physician before beginning any new workout or diet program, especially if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.
UAE parents are ‘blind to children’s weight problems’
Abu Dhabi // Many parents with overweight or obese children refuse to recognise that there is a problem, health professionals say.
They say the high rate of overweight and obese children in the UAE — measured at 40 per cent in 11 to 19 year olds by the New York University Abu Dhabi last year — is largely caused by poor diet.
Nadine Aoun, a dietician at Medcare Hospital in Dubai, said some parents blindly refused to accept their child was obese.
“They don’t like this idea and thus they neglect it,” she said.
Ms Aoun gave the case of a seven-year-old patient who had put on a lot of weight.
“Her peers teased her and her mother knew her weight was not suitable for her age but did not seek help at first,” she said.
“The mother came to me and said ‘I know I am late, but I want my child to get help and to control her weight’.”
Ms Aoun said she also had a five-year-old patient who suffered from high cholesterol and obesity. She said he lived on a diet of unhealthy food such as bacon, fried eggs, burgers and chips.
“This led him to having high cholesterol, even though he has no family history of high cholesterol,” she said.
Ms Aoun said every time a child visited the doctor, the parents should be told if their child’s body mass index falls within the normal category.
“The doctor should find out if the child is eating properly or exercising enough and, if not, sound the alarm,” she said. “Parents often think that if the child’s appetite is good and they eat, it is a sign of good health.”
A UAE study entitled Parental Weight Perceptions, published last year in the online journal PLoS One, found that three of five parents with overweight children thought the youngsters were of normal weight.
The study was written by Abdulla Al Junaibi, a paediatrician from Zayed Military Hospital in Abu Dhabi, and Dr Abdishakur Abdulle and Nico Nagelkerke of the UAE University in Al Ain.
Dr Anita Das Gupta, a clinical dietician at Burjeel Hospital, said she had patients as young as 2 who were obese.
“During open days or when we go to schools to spread awareness about obesity, we meet many children and we have seen that many are overweight or obese and their parents are not seeking help,” she said.
“In many cultures, people think if a child eats well it is healthy and if they are not eating, it is unhealthy. This idea is common here as well.”
Dr Das Gupta said the parents’ choice of food for their children was also a consideration.
“The parents say ‘no, our child does not eat a lot’. However, the child is eating unhealthy food.”
She said it was essential to educate parents about the benefits of giving children healthy food. “If the children get habituated to eating unhealthy food, they don’t want to give it up.
“Parents need to be taught what to feed their children. We explain to mothers when they are pregnant. The earlier the child is taught, the better.”
Dr Abdishakur Abdulle, associate director at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Public Health Research Centre, said: “Parental involvement is a key factor in managing childhood obesity, thus parental recognition of weight problems is vital.”
Despite this, he said, most parents of overweight and obese children underestimate their children’s condition.
“This is a clear obstacle to prevention, thus obesity prevention programs should take into account the important role of parents in developing national prevention strategies for childhood obesity,” Dr Abdulle said.
Suffering from obesity or excess weight as a child can bring about chronic conditions when they reach adulthood, such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure and orthopaedic disorders.