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Weight and Diabetes

Diabetes and weight are connected. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to get diabetes. If you already have diabetes, extra body fat prevents your insulin from working properly. On the other hand, sometimes diabetes treatment leads to weight gain. Read on to learn more about the link between diabetes and weight.

Effects of High Blood Sugars on Weight.
Chronic high blood sugars often trigger weight loss. Some of this loss is from the body losing too much water. As a rule, this weight is regained once blood sugars improve.

Taste Changes.
Diabetes can alter your sense of taste and smell. High blood sugars or some drugs may cause certain foods to taste sour, bitter or like metal. This can prompt you to eat more of other foods to mask those bad flavors. Also, some research has shown that people with diabetes have a blunted sense of taste that makes them crave sweets. If these taste changes cause you to eat more, it can affect your weight.

Weight Gain from Medications?

  • Diabetes pills and insulin can also affect your appetite or weight. A modest (3-8 pound) weight gain often comes with improved blood sugar control.
    1. Sulfonylureas and the drug Prandin (diabetes medications) help your body make more insulin. This extra insulin works to lower blood sugar levels. However, insulin has other functions. It stores extra sugar, fat and protein. It builds muscle and fat tissue. In short, extra insulin from these pills can promote more fat to be stored. This is more likely to happen if diet and exercise are not closely watched.
    2. Actos® or Avandia® (also used for treating diabetes) can lead to fluid retention, usually in the legs and ankles, which leads to a slight weight gain. Your doctor should always be notified if this occurs.
    3. Insulin may cause weight gain as it improves blood sugar control. If you are taking a lot of insulin and not closely watching your diet and exercise, this can trigger more fat storage. Extra insulin may also make it more difficult for your body to burn fat. Weight gain from insulin is more of a problem when your body doesn't use insulin well (insulin resistance).
  • Another cause of weight gain is when low blood sugars are over treated. The extra food used to prevent or treat low blood sugars sneaks up on people. Even a few extra calories a day can lead to a gradual weight gain.

Insulin is your friend!
When some people hear that insulin stores fat, they think of it as the enemy. They may even skip their insulin dose or take much less than they need, in an effort to lose weight.

If you have been prescribed insulin, this is because your body needs it. You either don't produce any insulin, don't produce enough or you are resistant to the insulin your body produces. Your body needs insulin injections to stay healthy and control blood sugars.

It's true that not taking insulin can cause weight loss. But this is not healthy weight loss. It is because the body is starving and is not able to absorb the calories from food. So it breaks down sugar stores, protein (from muscle) and body fat to survive. This creates a lot of problems and can make a person very sick. It can also put you at greater risk for developing diabetes complications (such as, blindness, kidney disease and limb amputation) at a faster rate.

If you skip your insulin for weight control, talk to your doctor right away. This is a form of an eating disorder and you need treatment. Work with your health care team to find a healthy way to manage your weight.

Weight and Type 1 Diabetes
Being overweight does not cause type 1 diabetes. So, a person with type 1 diabetes could be any size. If blood sugars are in poor control, a person could be thin or underweight. More often, people with type 1 diabetes are normal weight or even overweight.

In fact, aiming for tight blood sugar control may cause weight gain. A recent diabetes study showed that those who mastered tight blood sugar control gained an average of 10 pounds. Exercise can help to promote a healthier weight and decrease the risks of hearts disease. Weight loss makes insulin work better.

Weight and Type 2 Diabetes
Being overweight makes type 2 diabetes more likely In fact, most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. This extra body fat makes it harder to control blood sugars because it makes insulin more sluggish. Weight loss often helps insulin work better and thus improves blood sugars. It is one of the best ways to treat type 2 diabetes. However, weight loss is one of the most challenging goals to achieve.

How Healthy Weight Loss Helps Your Diabetes.
Healthy weight loss occurs slowly and steadily at the rate of 1-2 lbs. per week. When you lose weight this way, most of the weight lost is from body fat. As a result, you will benefit in the following ways:

  • Your body may not need as much insulin.
  • You may be able to reduce your dose of diabetes pills or insulin.
  • Your blood pressure and cholesterol may go down.
  • You may feel better and have more energy.

To reap these benefits, you don't even need to lose a lot of weight. Even a 10-20 pound loss can make a difference in your blood sugar control.

Reaching a healthy weight is a great way to keep your diabetes in control. Read on to learn how to change your eating habits and lose weight.