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OBESITY 1988-2014: There is good news and bad news…well, sort of good news.

The good news is according to the findings of the Journal of the American Heart Association, obese adults (those age 20 and over, with BMI above 30) are now at lower risk for developing heart disease, compared to 30 years ago. However, with the good comes the bad - and the bad news is obese individuals are MORE at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.  

So what does all this mean? Well, first we need to understand diabetes … According to the American Diabetes Association, in diabetes there is a problem with the body’s metabolism that causes sugar (glucose) to rise in the bloodstream whereas the cells, that need glucose as their energy source, are starving. How does this happen?

  1. The main source of glucose is the carbs we eat; these carbs are digested and absorbed through the stomach and then enter into the bloodstream primarily as glucose (sugar).

  2. Once glucose is in the bloodstream, it can reach all the cells in your body. Once these sugar molecules arrive at their destination, imagine them knocking on the cell’s door, the body orders the pancreas to produce insulin, the “key” that opens the cell’s door and lets the sugar in.

  3. Either the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin (type 1 and late type 2 diabetes) or the normal amounts of insulin fail to work properly (“insulin resistance”/obesity and early type 2 diabetes).  Over time both these abnormalities take place and result in excess sugar in the bloodstream (with toxic effects for the cells) and, at the same time, severe shortage of sugar inside the cells.

  4. The cells are then forced to turn into fat, instead of sugar, for their energy needs. This diabetic state is very damaging to the body - both through the toxic effects of high blood sugar levels which can cause blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage to widespread damage of our arteries, leading to heart attacks, stroke and leg amputations.

The Center for disease control states 29 million people in the United states have diabetes which is three million more than just six years ago.  Worldwide more than 380 million people suffer from diabetes.  More than one in three adults in the US have pre-diabetes which us 86 million people. A healthy lifestyle, including almost daily exercise and healthy diet, both reduces the chances of becoming diabetic in the first place and improves the outcome in those already suffering from diabetes.

Now is the time to take on the challenge of obesity and diabetes. Not only do we need to personally practice prevention, but we also need to convey the message of wellness, through our personal examples, skills and knowledge, to our loved ones, our colleagues and the society at large. There is no reason why we cannot succeed in the fight against obesity and diabetes, should we show the necessary resolve and determination, and be given the time required to re-engineer our daily lives, both in the workplace and at home. Spread the good news and work for what remains to be done. Take care of yourself and your loved ones and help prove wrong the pessimistic statistics on the future of obesity and diabetes.

To your health!  

Dr. Anthony