Diabetes and Obesity: A Modern-Day Plague

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Why are the rates of diabetes and obesity increasing? What are some preventative measures you could take to reduce your chances of becoming obese or developing diabetes?

Diabetes and obesity have become endemic in the developed world. Not only are these diseases dangerous in and of themselves, but they also increase your risk of other deadly maladies such as heart disease and stroke.

Here’s a look at the wider health risks of diabetes and obesity and preventative measures you could take.

Diabetes and Obesity

Obesity and diabetes are not only preventable but reversible. They point out that nearly three-quarters of Americans over 19 are overweight and that over 40% of American adults are obese. Obesity greatly increases the risk of many different diseases, such as diabetes, stroke, asthma, and Alzheimer’s, and it was shown to be the second most important risk factor of death from COVID between 2020 and 2021—second only to age. 

(Shortform note: In addition to increasing the risk of developing certain diseases, experts also note that obesity can have the same damaging effects on the body as aging. However, while obesity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, research shows that in people who already have cardiovascular disease, obesity may improve their outcomes and extend their lifespans compared to people with cardiovascular disease who aren’t obese.)

Additionally, approximately 10% of Americans have diabetes, and these numbers are expected to grow in the future. (The authors note that the CDC uses the body mass index scale to measure whether someone is overweight or obese, but they point out that this scale is flawed as it fails to account for factors like bone density, muscle mass, and race.)

The Dangers of Measuring Using BMI

Part of the issue with the BMI scale is that it is based on the “ideal” body type as assessed in the early 1830s. This is especially problematic for women because women are, on average, taller today than they were 200 years ago, which makes the “normal” range of BMI much lower than what actually constitutes a healthy body weight. It was also developed almost exclusively from studying white men, meaning the BMI scale doesn’t take into account physiological differences between races

This makes BMI a very poor measure of health, particularly for women and people of color, and because it is often used by health practitioners and insurance companies to determine care, it can lead to inappropriate or insufficient treatments and excessively high insurance premiums. Rather than using BMI, some experts believe we should use waist-to-height ratio to assess diabetes risk and prevalence.

To combat these diseases, the authors recommend such measures as reducing your calorie intake. They note that cutting out just 300 calories per day can reduce body fat and provide other benefits like reduced inflammation and blood pressure, better sleep, and more energy. Additionally, research suggests that losing 20-30 pounds in a short period of time can actually reverse type 2 diabetes. 

(Shortform note: Rapid weight loss has long been viewed as harmful compared to slow, steady weight loss, with critics suggesting that it’s damaging to your metabolism and increases the likelihood of weight regain. However, recent research suggests that outcomes for rapid weight loss and slow weight loss are similar, with no added probability of weight regain after rapid weight loss. Rapid weight loss may increase the loss of muscle mass by a small factor compared to slow weight loss, and it can cause nutritional deficiencies if you’re not careful, so it’s important to consult with your doctor and supplement your nutrition as needed.)

Diabetes and Obesity: A Modern-Day Plague

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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