Can You Be Too Thin With Diabetes?

Most of us associate type II diabetes with obesity.  That’s not surprising, given that 85% of people with type II diabetes are overweight. Surprisingly, though, being thin with diabetes is far more dangerous than being fat.

In most cases, the first thing a newly-diagnosed diabetes patient is told is, “lose some weight.” A new research study out the Northwestern University is casting doubt on that strategy. The study, led by Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The research analyzed the results of five previous research studies that measured body weight, body mass index (BMI), diabetes and mortality. In all, 2,600 patients were analyzed.

After excluding outside factors unrelated to diabetes and weight, thin diabetics were nearly twice as likely to die as heavier diabetics. The hard, cold numbers were 1.5% mortality per year for heavy patients versus 2.8% per year for thin patients, all with type II diabetes.

Dr. Carnethon did not have an explanation for this surprising result. It could be that the thin patients had visceral fat, the fat that is inside the bone structure, wrapped around organs and not visible to the eye.  Or it could be that diabetes is a genetic mutation that will occur regardless of BMI. In any case, she did not recommend a sudden weight gain for slender patients who are diagnosed with diabetes, just increased care.

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