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Young woman with diabetes testing blood glucose levels.

Diabesity: Diabetes and Obesity 


Being overweight is the largest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, when compared to those at a healthy weight, people who are overweight or obese are six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, even if they have no family history of it. This relationship between the two conditions is often referred to as “diabesity.” 

How Obesity Leads to Diabetes

In individuals with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas may produce some insulin. However, it’s either not enough insulin, or the body’s cells are resistant to it. Insulin is necessary for controlling blood sugar levels, as well as metabolism. In insulin-resistant individuals, glucose builds up, causing high blood sugar.

Those who are overweight or obese have higher levels of fatty acids, causing cells to become less sensitive to insulin. This leads to insulin resistance, which, in turn, leads to type 2 diabetes.

Risks of Untreated Diabesity 

Type 2 diabetes and obesity, especially when occurring together, raise your chances of several serious conditions and diseases. Most notable among these comorbidities is the increased risk of heart disease. 

Obesity can spike your body’s “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), cause a buildup of fatty material in your arteries, and raise your blood pressure. Similarly, high blood sugar associated with type 2 diabetes can harm your blood vessels and harden your arteries. All these factors increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, having a stroke, or having a heart attack.

Other risks of diabesity include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye and foot damage
  • Depression
  • Skin conditions
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Osteoarthritis 

Treating Diabesity with Weight Loss 

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but through diet and exercise, it may be possible for some people to reverse their symptoms. Not only can losing weight lower your insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol, but it also decreases the chances of many comorbidities associated with both diabetes and obesity. 

If you are overweight and don’t currently suffer from type 2 diabetes, you can benefit from losing weight, too. For high-risk patients, research shows that dropping 5–7% of your current body weight can help decrease your odds of developing type 2 diabetes by 50%.

A diabetes-friendly diet and regular exercise are the best ways to start losing weight, but for some people, that may not be enough. If you’ve tried to lose weight through traditional means and have been unsuccessful, you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery. 

At Lenox Hill Hospital, our bariatric surgery program is one of the best. Our expert surgeons have been performing laparoscopic bariatric surgeries for over a decade, and we provide the education, aftercare, support, and resources to help our patients throughout their weight-loss journey. Learn more about the procedures we offer on our website, or contact our office today.