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Healthy Weight Center

Is My Excess Weight Causing Diabetes?



I am a 44 year old women, very overweight. My doctor recently told me that I'm borderline diabetic. Is this because of my weight?


Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, your doctor is right. Being overweight or obese does increase your risk for diabetes. Other risk factors include family history, lack of exercise, poor diet and medications.

When you gain weight over time, your body can become insulin resistant. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that is secreted in response to blood sugar going up. Blood sugar rises and falls after we eat.

Insulin resistance occurs when the cells in your body (especially fat cells) are not responding to insulin produced. So blood sugar does not go down no matter how much insulin is secreted. The body will continue to secrete insulin to try to lower blood sugar. Hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels) are a risk factor for heart disease and cancer.

You can prevent diabetes (as well as other chronic conditions) by doing the following:

1. Lose at least 10% of your current weight (so if you weigh 200 lbs, a 20 lb loss would reduce your risk). Fat cells increase insulin resistance. If you lose weight, you will lose body fat.

2. Cut out excess sugar and calories from regular soda, sweetened beverages, cake, pie, candy, cookies and even fruit juice. This will help with weight loss and lowering your blood sugar.

3. Get regular exercise. Exercise uses up excess sugar in your bloodstream so it does not stay elevated. Exercise also aids with weight reduction. Aim for at least 30-45 minutes 5 days/week for weight loss.

4. Change from white rice to brown rice. A recent study found that people that ate 1/2 cup of brown rice twice/week VS white rice reduced their chance for diabetes by 10%.

5. Include protein with your meals and cut back on carbohydrate. Foods high in protein are digested slower and don't raise blood sugar as quickly as carbohydrates. Good choices include eggs or egg whites, peanut butter, low fat cottage cheese, lean beef, poultry, fish or beans. Limit intake of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, crackers, pretzels and sweets mentioned above.

You may want to hire a Registered Dietitian to help with weight loss and blood sugar management. You can locate one through the American Dietetic Association web site.

It's a new year- get a new start, not a new disease!

Good luck!

Related Resources:

American Dietetic Association

For more information:

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati