Diabetes and obesity

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 80 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese.

A person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A person with a BMI of 30 and over is considered obese. Body Mass Index is a measurement frequently used to define the level of body fatness according to the relationship of weight to height.

Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

However, an estimated half of all diabetes cases would be eliminated if excess weight gain could be prevented.

The risk for diabetes increases as weight rises because excess fat promotes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that body cells do not respond as well to insulin, the hormone that moves blood glucose into the body’s cells. Thus, blood glucose levels rise and diabetes develops if the blood glucose exceeds the normal range.

Type 2 diabetes was previously a condition that affected only adults. However, there has been a rapid rise in the number of children who are overweight and Type 2 diabetes has been developing in children and adolescents.

The earlier the onset of diabetes, the greater the risks are for developing complications, such as heart disease and circulatory problems, stroke, blindness, kidney problems and problems of the nervous system.

However, making and sustaining a variety of small changes to one’s diet and activity patterns can go a long way towards achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Here are practical suggestions that can be incorporated into daily routines:

Start your day with a healthy breakfast to energize your metabolism and prevent overeating later in the day.

Choose water or low sugar/sugar free drinks throughout the day to stay hydrated and reduce a significant source of ’empty’ calories.

Select nutritious, satisfying foods to fuel your body and mind, such as whole grain cereals, rice and breads; fruits and vegetables; beans, peas and nuts; lean meats, skinless poultry and fish; low fat dairy or soy products.

Prepare cooked foods with minimal added fats (oils, margarine/butter, shortening, lard, coconut milk are added fats). Most of the time, bake, roast, steam, poach, broil or grill your foods.

Enjoy lower fat versions of sauces, dressings and condiments to add flavour, but not excess calories, to your meals.

Plan for snacks if you know you will need them and have healthier ones on hand.

Enjoy three regular, balanced meals to keep you energized throughout the day and reduce the tendency to overeat later at night.

Balance meals with large portions of raw or cooked vegetables, moderate amounts of high fiber starch (whole wheat breads/pasta, breadkind, brown rice, beans/peas/lentils), and a small amount of lean meats or skinless poultry or fish.

Look forward to releasing stress and increasing your body’s fitness by aiming to exercise most days of the week. Brisk walking, cycling, aerobics, swimming, jogging/running, roller blading, or playing sports are great activities to do on a regular basis. Aim for at least 30 minutes five days a week.

Burn more calories throughout the day by taking small opportunities to be active, such as walking whenever possible and using the stairs instead of the elevator. Take five minutes several times a day to stretch and walk around if sitting for long periods. Do some of your own yard work and house work.

Increase your muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat tissue, by strength training. There are numerous gyms, personal trainers, videos and books that can assist you in developing a strength training program for your needs.

Always remember that a healthy weight is achieved and maintained by balancing energy input (calories eaten) with energy output (calories burned). To lose weight, fewer calories need to be consumed and more calories need to be used up in physical activity.


The Cayman Islands Diabetes Association will hold its monthly meeting on Wednesday, 4 October at the CI Hospital (Orchid Conference Room, upstairs) at 6pm. All welcome.

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