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Diabetes & Obesity

The prevalence of obesity is rising to epidemic proportions worldwide.  In some countries, an astonishing half of the population is overweight. Being overweight or obese seriously increases an individual’s risk of developing other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

In both men and women, the more overweight an individual is, the greater the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The means by which excessive body fat causes type 2 diabetes is not clearly defined, but it appears that excess fat increases insulin resistance, raising blood glucose levels and the likelihood of developing diabetes.  People with a greater amount of abdominal fat have a higher risk of developing the condition.

Diabetes is the most preventable consequence of the obesity epidemic. Figures from the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) suggest that up to 1.7 billion of the world’s population are already at a heightened risk of weight-related non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, the risk in type 2 diabetes appears to be mainly related to the increasing prevalence of overweight and obese individuals worldwide. One in three Americans born today is predicted to develop diabetes as a consequence of obesity.

Prevention

Although obesity can affect anyone, the main risk factors are high-fat, high-energy dense diets and physical inactivity. Growing trends in many countries portray an ‘obesogenic’ society where the consumption of high-fat, high energy dense food is preferred to healthy fresh fruit and vegetables, and where the level of physical activity has dramatically been reduced or substituted by the constant usage of motor vehicles.

The importance of eating a low-fat, low-energy dense diet and participating in physical activity should be greatly promoted in order to reduce the risks of becoming overweight or obese. If these habits are introduced in children, there is a greater chance that they will continue into adulthood.

Public health programs should stress the importance of a healthy environment, promoting improved diet and activity throughout communities. National programs should be especially aimed at improving education and awareness of obesity and its consequences in schools and in youth recreational centers.

Facts

  • The prevalence of obesity is rising to epidemic proportions at an alarming rate in both developed and developing countries worldwide.

  • Overweight and obesity affect over half the world’s population and diabetes rates are climbing to 20% of all adults in many Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American countries.

  • Two thirds of adult men and women in the US with type 2 diabetes have a BMI of 27 or greater.

  • It is estimated that at least half of all diabetes cases would be eliminated if weight gain in adults could be prevented.

  • Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes now account for more deaths each year worldwide than AIDS.

  • The twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes already represent the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century.

  • Lifestyle interventions, including diet and moderate physical activity, can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 40-60%.

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