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The complex relationship between diabetes and weight

Last Modified: March 08, 2024

Diseases & Disorders

Doctor adjust scale for patient

Indira Patel, BSN, RN, diabetes care and education specialist, Parkview Diabetes Care Services

In the realm of health and wellness, few conditions are as widely misunderstood as diabetes. From misconceptions about its causes to its supposed effects on weight, misinformation often clouds the understanding of this complex metabolic disorder. One belief is that diabetes inherently leads to weight gain or loss. However, the reality is much more nuanced. 

Understanding diabetes

Firstly, it is important to grasp the basics of diabetes, which typically manifests as type 1 and type 2. For more information on additional forms such as gestational diabetes, visit our website

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Individuals with type 1 diabetes require insulin injections to manage their blood glucose, as insulin serves as their lifeline.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes usually develops over time due to insulin resistance, in which the body’s cells become less responsive and cannot properly absorb the glucose required for energy production. This is often associated with lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity.

Weight gain

While it's true that weight gain is often a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, the condition itself doesn't directly cause increased body mass. There are certain factors related to diabetes management which can contribute to weight gain, including:

  • Insulin therapy, a universal treatment for type 1 diabetes and sometimes prescribed for type 2 diabetes can increase the storage of fat and glucose in cells.
  • Hypoglycemia prevention, or fear of low blood sugar levels, can lead individuals to consume extra calories.
  • Medications such as sulfonylureas and thiazolidinediones, that are used to manage diabetes.

Weight loss

Conversely, some believe that diabetes causes weight loss. A reduction in weight can occur in those with uncontrolled diabetes, but it’s not a universal symptom. It may occur due to several factors such as:

  • Insulin deficiency, caused by inadequate insulin production in type 1 diabetes, may cause the body to break down muscle and fat for energy leading to weight loss.
  • High blood sugar levels can trigger the body to excrete excess glucose through urine, resulting in calorie loss and weight reduction.
  • Frequent urination is a common symptom of diabetes and can contribute to dehydration and subsequent weight loss. 


Managing weight with diabetes

Regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, maintaining a healthy weight is essential for overall well-being. For individuals with diabetes, adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and adhering to prescribed medications are vital for managing both blood sugar levels and weight.

Diabetes itself doesn't directly cause weight gain or loss. Instead, factors such as insulin therapy, medication side effects, and lifestyle choices play significant roles in weight changes. Understanding these nuances is essential for dispelling myths and promoting accurate knowledge about diabetes. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits and seeking appropriate medical care, individuals with diabetes can effectively control their condition while maintaining a healthy weight.

Consulting with healthcare professionals, including registered dietitians and endocrinologists, can provide personalized guidance on weight management strategies tailored to individual needs. For additional questions or concerns about managing diabetes, call Parkview Diabetes Care Services at 260-373-4280 to speak with a diabetes educator, registered dietitian or lifestyle change specialist.

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