No…. and Yes.
Obesity is correlated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The trio are often seen together. But is it the weight gain that causes the ill health, or is it the ill health that causes the weight gain?
I argue that ill health leads to weight gain, which goes hand in hand with a number of other commonly seen conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Obesity can be partially responsible for increased blood pressure, that part is true. Excess fat increases pressure on all the peripheral blood vessels from fatty tissue, meaning that your heart has to beat harder to force blood through the vessels than it otherwise would. Also, fat produces inflammatory cytokines in the body which can cause disease – but it’s not really the biggest problem…
Does obesity cause diabetes? No!
“Because sugar is STICKY and you don’t want your blood to start turning into syrup”Diabetes (type 2) is caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels, particularly by prolonged high blood sugar levels. (Why is high blood sugar so bad? Because sugar is STICKY and you don’t want your blood to start turning into syrup, okay?) The body’s muscles and liver can only sequester away so much sugar at a time before they reach their saturation point. Then your body has to find some way to drop sugar levels in the blood. It uses insulin from the pancreas to signal to the muscles and liver to take what they can, and they do. Insulin also shuts off fat burning and causes the body to utilise sugar for energy instead.
When the muscles and liver have taken their fill but sugar remains high, your pancreas will increase the amount of insulin produced, to try to force them to take MORE. They might manage that. Then it produces even MORE… and when that’s ineffective, it produces even MORE insulin, to do anything it can to force blood sugar levels down. High sugar levels go into your urine to force it out of your body, and the thing about sugar is that sugar attracts water. So your bladder fills up faster than normal, with more water than it should have in it. Your urine becomes sweet and you become dehydrated and thirsty as you lose water through excess urination.
Your liver will also create fat from the sugar as a method to drop the sugar levels in your blood. It can only do it at a certain rate but it will do what it can – and so you gain weight and become obese. Therefore, type 2 diabetes, or just fluctuating blood sugar levels, causes obesity and it isn’t the other way around.
“The problem with chronically high insulin levels is that it causes inflammation to the body”The problem with chronically high insulin levels is that it causes inflammation to the body and long term damage. Chronically high blood sugar and insulin results in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) being produced by your body – simply speaking, these are sugary proteins, and they damage the blood vessels, most specifically the fine capillaries. The areas of your body which have fine capillaries are generally the toes, kidneys and the retina of the eyes. So this is how diabetics suffer from diabetic nephropathy, retinopathy and peripheral vascular disease (which can result in amputation of gangrenous body parts).
The type 2 diabetic produces plenty of insulin – tremendous amounts – but no matter how much insulin they produce, it’s not enough to keep blood sugar levels down below the diagnostic level for diabetes. Whereas, the type 1 diabetic cannot produce insulin on their own at all due to a pancreatic deficiency. Their blood sugar levels become elevated because they simply cannot produce insulin to signal the muscles and liver to take the sugar.
“We also get larger muscles which can act as a greater sink for sugar storage”However, without the presence of insulin they do not tend to gain weight, in fact they tend to be quite thin – but it is not always a good thing – type 1 diabetics tend to have a shorter lifespan than those who have normal pancreatic function.
By doing exercise, we decrease the amount of sugar held in our muscles, temporarily. We also get larger muscles which can act as a greater sink for sugar storage. This is one way that exercise improves your health.
High blood pressure is caused by a few factors.
If you have a hose squirting out water, there are a couple of ways to make the water squirt further. One is to turn the tap and increase the amount of water going through it. Another is to shrink the hose (put a thumb over the end) but keep the same amount of water running through it. The body is a slightly more complicated system because there are many blood vessels and it’s a closed system all running through the heart, so there are a few more factors at play – below is just a list I thought of off the top of my head:
1. Blood volume – the more fluid there is within your closed system, the higher the pressure will be
2. Heart rate – the faster the blood is pumping around the system, the higher the pressure will be
3. Heart size/volume of blood per pump – the more blood is pumped in each heart beat, the higher the pressure will be (systolic).
4. The volume of blood vessels – the greater the volume of blood vessels, the lower the pressure will be
5. The stretchiness and width of those vessels – the more stretchy the vessels are, the lower the blood pressure will be
6. The pressure pushing against the vessels – the greater the pressure against the vessels (increased by gained weight), the higher the pressure will be.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors at play and we can’t always control all these things so it is amazing that the body automatically takes care of this for us, as best it can, using a lot of internal mechanisms. Your body adjusts blood volume using the kidneys and thirst, it adjusts heart rate by making the heart beat faster or slower, it adjusts heart size over time and adjusts the volume of blood per beat automatically, it adjusts the volume of the blood vessels by constricting or relaxing fine muscles that surround the vessels and it generally tries to keep the blood vessels stretchy so they can accommodate differing pressures (systolic and diastolic pressures).
When things go wrong such as the kidneys having to filter out too much sugar or salt, blood becoming thick and sticky, blood vessels hardening from a mineral imbalance and increased external pressure on the blood vessels from too much fat, your blood pressure will increase and it can have disastrous consequences. High blood pressure combined with weak blood vessels can cause uncontrolled bleeds, which is not so bad if you break a blood vessel in your hand from clapping too hard or knocking it against something, however if the weak blood vessel is in your brain, or if it is the main blood artery leading out of your heart (aorta) and it splits, you can end up with a very serious situation VERY fast.
So no, losing weight will not really make you healthier.
“when they say you need to lose weight to become healthier – you need to become healthier, period.”Becoming healthier will result in you losing weight and decreasing your risk of disease.
Don’t believe the doctor when they say you need to lose weight to become healthier – you need to become healthier, period.
And you will lose weight as a happy side effect!
So stop surfing the scales and focussing on the symptoms! Get healthy and let your body take care of the rest, as it was designed to do. 🙂
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