What Is the Relationship Between Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes?

There are many factors that can causes Type 2 diabetes, but what is the relationship between obesity and Type 2 diabetes?

April, 2021


Approximately 28% of adults in England are obese while another 36% of adults are overweight. This adds up to more than half of the adult population.

Are you worried about your weight? Have you been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes recently?

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are separate medical diagnoses, but they do have a strong link that is important to be aware of if you have either condition. To find out more about the connection that exists between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, keep reading.

What Is Obesity?

People often use the terms overweight and obese as one of the same but there is a difference between them. Obesity is a medical condition in which a person has a large amount of body fat to the point that it may impact their physical health. Being overweight can be caused by weight from muscle, fat, bone, or water.

As you can see, obesity, in medical terms, is directly related to the amount of fat that is in a person’s body. Being obese or overweight are both measured by the same test – the BMI.

Body Mass Index (or BMI) is calculated as your weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in metres) or BMI = Kg/M2.

If you weigh 20% more than what is considered a healthy weight for you, you are considered obese. The BMI is a common tool used by health professionals to calculate where you fall on the spectrum of body weight. When you have a BMI of 30 or higher, you will be considered obese.

The BMI tool is a good indication of overall health. Remember, however, that a higher BMI doesn’t always indicate a medical issue or someone in bad health. For instance, people that lift weights likely have a lot of muscle, which means they put on extra weight.

Obesity can happen to anyone, but there are certain causes of obesity to be aware of. These include:

  • Inactive lifestyle
  • High-calorie intake
  • Lack of sleep
  • Genetics
  • Stress

There are also medical conditions, including high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes, that can develop as a result of being obese.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas isn’t able to produce enough insulin to control your blood sugar. The cells in your body aren’t responding to or accepting the insulin that your body is producing.

Hyperglycaemia is the medical term for high blood sugar or high blood glucose levels.

Some of the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling tired
  • Frequent urination (especially at night)
  • Blurry vision from dry eyes
  • Itchiness on your genitals
  • Recurring yeast infections

The symptoms are not always clear, so it can be hard to get an accurate diagnosis.

You may find that your symptoms gradually get worse over a period of years. As a result, you could have Type 2 diabetes, and be unaware that this is the cause of your symptoms.

There are about 750,000 people in the UK that are estimated to have Type 2 diabetes without a proper diagnosis. To be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the healthcare team will perform a blood test. This tests your HbA1c levels over the past few months.

If you score below 5.7%, your results are considered normal. 5.7% to 6.4% indicates you may have prediabetes and levels higher than 6.5% on two consecutive tests indicates that you have Type 2 diabetes.

What Are the Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes?

While obesity is a big risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, it is not the only one. In fact, there are several causes that could lead to Type 2 diabetes symptom development.

If you are unsure about whether you may have Type 2 diabetes, speak with your healthcare team about your concern. You may want to have this discussion if you are worried about:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood triglyceride levels
  • High alcohol intake
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels

Understanding the Link Between Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

People suffering from obesity have a much higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

People who are obese tend to have more abdominal fat – this causes fat cells to release chemicals known as ‘pro-inflammatory chemicals’. these can make the body less sensitive to the insulin the pancreas produces. It changes the response to insulin in the cells and the cells’ ability to respond – this is known as insulin resistance

When your body is resistant to insulin, you can’t convert glucose into energy, and you develop high blood sugar.

High blood sugar is not good for the body, especially over extended periods of time. It can result in damage to your blood vessels or nerves. In addition to that, it may also cause damage to other specific areas of the body, including:

  • Your heart
  • Your kidneys
  • Your feet
  • Your eyes

Not everyone that is obese will develop Type 2 diabetes. The reason for this is not yet understood, however, we cannot ignore the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Staying Healthy Starts With You

If you’re dealing with obesity and Type 2 diabetes, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and help is available. At Better Living, we offer support for people living with Type 2 diabetes.

Have you recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes? You may be struggling with the diagnosis or feel confused about what that means for your future.

To learn more about how to stay healthy with Type 2 diabetes, check out our article about how to live with the condition to gain a better understanding of what to do next.