There are a lot of diabetes treatments out there—you may be on some yourself. But for some people with type 2 diabetes, those treatments may relieve symptoms without confronting the underlying problem of obesity, according to studies.
It comes as no surprise that the more a person weighs, the higher his or her risk of developing type 2 diabetes becomes. However, a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine drove home the point that body mass index (BMI) may be the leading risk factor of type 2 diabetes.
"Body mass index [BMI] was the greatest contributor we saw to the increase in the prevalence [of type 2 diabetes] over time in both men and women," Dr. Andy Menke, senior research analyst, social and scientific systems, Silver Spring, Maryland, told Medscape Medical News.
The researchers examined data from five National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of a nationally representative U.S. sample of nearly 24,000 people. The team discovered that diabetes almost doubled from 1976 to 1980 as well as 1999 to 2004.
More than other factors like race, age, and ethnicity, BMI explained most of the increase in the surge of diabetes.
"But unlike aging, race, and ethnicity, body mass can be changed," Menke explained to the source. "Studies have indicated obesity may be plateauing in the United States—and that's a positive step—but we'd really like to see it start to decrease [because] our study suggests that we could see a much lower prevalence of diabetes if we were able to decrease overweight and obesity to the levels seen in 1976–1980."
Interestingly, type 2 diabetes prevalence increased more in men than women. The researchers aren't certain what’s behind the gender gap, but they said it might be due to factors such as physical activity, sleep patterns, psychological stress and depression, vitamin D levels, and exposure to pollutants and toxins.
"Decreasing the occurrence of being overweight and obesity remains an important intervention to reduce the burden of diabetes," the study authors wrote.
The significant contribution of BMI to the increased rate in both sexes supports public health efforts to reduce it.
So, the million-dollar questions arise: Can losing weight "reverse" type 2 diabetes? Can it help people wean off diabetes medications?
Dr. Ann Albright, director of diabetes translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told WebMD that the term "reversal" doesn’t mean a cure, but describes an improvement where people can stop taking medication but still must engage in a lifestyle program to keep diabetes at bay.
Dropping excess pounds—and keeping them off—may help you better manage your blood sugar.
Some people who reach a healthier weight can take fewer diabetes medications and, in rarer cases, no longer need those medications at all.
Losing five to 10 percent of your body weight and working your way up to 150 minutes of exercise a week could help slow or stop the progress of diabetes, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study.
While certain lifestyle changes are essential in controlling type 2 diabetes, turning diabetes around depends on how long you've had the condition, how severe it is and your genes.
In any case, the bottom line is that achieving a healthy body weight may help control your diabetes. If you're ready to get started, visit our Diet and Exercise section.