Can You Have Diabetes and Not Be Overweight?

At Southern Nevada Bariatrics in Las Vegas, our team is led by Mustafa Ahmed, MD, a board-certified bariatric surgeon and internist who also specializes in the diagnosis and management of diabetes. His interest is in helping you live the healthiest life possible through positive lifestyle changes and supportive medical care that helps prevent the consequences of conditions like diabetes.

What exactly is diabetes?

Your body requires a certain amount of sugar (glucose) for normal cellular function, which it obtains from the carbohydrates in the foods and beverages you consume. Insulin, a hormone produced in your pancreas, helps your cells absorb and utilize glucose.

Diabetes develops when your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to be effective or your cells don’t respond normally to the insulin in your bloodstream. This causes abnormally high blood sugar related to diabetes.

Health complications related to uncontrolled diabetes include:

  • Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Vision loss
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Treatment-resistant bacterial and fungal skin infections
  • Hearing loss
  • Increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia
  • Open sores on the feet (diabetic foot ulcers)

There are several different types of diabetes. All are related to abnormal blood glucose levels, but the underlying cause of the malfunction varies.

What are the different types of diabetes?

The most common types of diabetes are:

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes develops when your immune system mistakenly destroys cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. Without sufficient insulin, sugar builds in the bloodstream and causes diabetes.

People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to avoid serious health complications related to extremely elevated blood sugar, including coma and death.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type by far, and it occurs when cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. This causes abnormal blood sugar levels that, over time, lead to the health consequences associated with uncontrolled diabetes.

Gestational diabetes

Hormones produced by the placenta during pregnancy can make your cells more resistant to insulin. Gestational diabetes develops when your pancreas can’t keep up with the increased demand for insulin.

This type of diabetes normally resolves once you’ve delivered your baby. It does, however, increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Does excess weight cause diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is not related to your weight. Excess weight can affect diabetes management, however, and is a common risk factor for type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Notably, though, not everyone with type 2 or gestational diabetes is overweight. It’s estimated that 10-15% of people with diabetes are at a healthy weight or even slightly underweight. In fact, unexplained weight loss is one symptom of diabetes.

Other factors that can increase your risk of developing type 2 or gestational diabetes include:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Family history of parent or siblings with diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, and elevated triglycerides

Another risk factor is age, as type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, but it can also occur in children, teens, and young adults

Regardless of your weight, a diet that’s high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods or beverages also increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

For more information about diabetes management, supervised weight loss, or any of the other services we offerschedule a visit at Southern Nevada Bariatrics today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.

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