When you carry extra weight -- even just an extra 5 to 10 percent over your ideal weight range -- you increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. What's the link? It's because you're overworking your pancreas.
After you eat, your body breaks food down into the nutrients it needs to function properly. Glucose is a sugar the body uses as a source of energy. When you eat, glucose enters your bloodstream and triggers your pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that helps cells store glucose as energy for later use. The body's inability to use the insulin it makes properly is called insulin resistance, and it's one of the early signs that you're on your way to becoming a diabetic. Over time, the body becomes less and less able to process enough insulin to meet the body's needs, and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. More glucose in the bloodstream triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin, until the pancreas can't keep up with the load.
Diabetes is more prevalent in people who are overweight and obese. When you gain weight, your fat cells need to store excess fat, and that puts stress on them. They begin to malfunction, and it's thought that when the cells malfunction they can't communicate effectively with the rest of the body, increasing the risk for insulin resistance.
While diabetes is a preventable and manageable disease, it can have serious complications if left untreated, and it's estimated that about 6 million Americans don't know they are diabetic [source: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse]. Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and dysfunction, periodontal disease, blindness (diabetic retinopathy), nerve damage (that can lead to loss of limbs) and death.
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