People with obesity nearly three times as likely to get Type 2 diabetes

people with obesity, healthy
© Timothy James

New research by the American Heart Association finds that obesity is a factor in almost half of all new cases, with obese individuals significantly more likely to get Type 2 diabetes

More than 31 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, making it the most common experience of diabetes throughout the population.

Deaths due to Type 2 diabetes are increasing in people under the age of 65, with amputations and serious complications happening more often. Adults with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who live without diabetes.

During times of COVID-19, these complications make survival even more difficult.

How can you get Type 2 diabetes?

This type of diabetes is more common in people who are Black, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander or Asian American. There are several other risk factors, like being overweight or being over the age of 45, having an immediate family member diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, being physically active less than 3 times per week or a history of gestational diabetes.

However, a healthy lifestyle such as losing weight, eating healthy and being physically active can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. These changes can even help those with prediabetes lessen their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.

‘Decreasing obesity needs to be a priority’

The study’s first author Natalie A. Cameron, MD, a resident physician of internal medicine at the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, commented: “Our study highlights the meaningful impact that reducing obesity could have on Type 2 diabetes prevention in the United States. Decreasing obesity needs to be a priority.

“Public health efforts that support healthy lifestyles, such as increasing access to nutritious foods, promoting physical activity and developing community programs to prevent obesity, could substantially reduce new cases of Type 2 diabetes.”

New data on the Type 2 situation suggests a decline

The research team found that among participants, the overall prevalence of obesity increased from 34% to 41% and was consistently higher among adults with Type 2 diabetes.

In another group of participants, about 1 in 10 (11.6%) developed Type 2 diabetes after nine years. Following on from this, it seems that people with obesity were nearly three times as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes compared to those without obesity, at 20% versus 7.3%.

In both of the participant groups, it seems that obesity was linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes in 30–53% of cases. A large proportion of participants with obesity had an annual family income of less than $50,000, and they were more likely to be non-Hispanic Black or Mexican American. But it seemed that obesity was least prevalent in  non-Hispanic white females.

Natalie A Cameron, MD, further commented: “Our study confirms there is a higher prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic Black adults and Mexican-American adults compared to non-Hispanic white adults. We suspect these differences may point to important social determinants of health that contribute to new cases of Type 2 diabetes in addition to obesity.”


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