A recent article in Bottomline/health , Mercedes Carnethon, Ph.D, associate professor of preventive medicine/epidemiology at Northwestern /University,  reported contrary to misconceptions of many, including doctors.  “You can develop diabetes regardless of your weight”.

About 85% of people with diabetes are carrying extra pounds.  No one knows exactly why some people who are not overweight develop diabetes.  It is speculated that certain people are genetically primed for their insulin to not function properly, leading to diabetes, despite their weight.  

Because diabetes is closely linked to being overweight, researchers were surprised by their results of a recent analysis of 2,600 people with type 2 diabetes     who were tracked for up to 15 years.  Among these people with diabetes, those who were of normal weight were twice as likely to die of non-heart related causes, primarily cancer, during the study period as those who were overweight or obese, also, were more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, however, there were not enough heart related events to make the finding statistically significant.  

Possible reasons for higher death rates among normal-weight individuals with diabetes.

  • Obesity Paradox:  Even though overweight and obese people have a higher risk of developing diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease, they tend to weather these illnesses somewhat better, for unknown reasons than normal weight people.
  • Visceral fat:  A type of fat around the internal organs isn’t always apparent. Unlike the fat you can grab, which is largely inert, visceral fat causes metabolic disturbances that increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease and other conditions.  You can have high levels of visceral fat even if you are lean. A simple waist measurement can help indicate whether you have visceral fat. 

 How to protect yourself:

It is estimated that about 25%  or 29 millionAmericans with diabetes haven’t been diagnosed, whether you’re heavy or lean .

Get Tested  …regardless of of your weight. Talk to your doctor.

Pull out the tape measure. Even if you aren’t particularly heavy, a large waist circumference could indicate high levels of visceral fat “abdominal obesity” is defined as a waist circumference of more than 35”  in women, more than 40 “ in men. Even  if you are under these limits, any increase in waist size could be a warning.

Watch the sugar and calories. Research has consistently linked sweetened beverages with diabetes.  It is not clear  whether the culprits are the sweeteners or just the extra calories, which lead to weight gain. Either way, no matter what you weight, it is smart to eliminate soda and sweet drinks from your diet.

Get the right type of exercise. If you don’t need to lose weight, strength training could be a good choice.  When you add muscle, you improve insulin sensitivity and enhance the body’s ability to remove glucose from the blood.

Walking is one of the best exercises going because it has both aerobic and muscle building effects.Walking briskly for  30 minutes can reduce the risk for diabetes by nearly one-third.  For information on recommended heart rate and speed go to: wwwpilatesplusforboomers.com and click on “walking for the health of it.”