Why don’t all obese people develop diabetes?

by Mark Benson on November 26, 2012

Why don’t all obese people develop diabetes?

There are many questions that remain unanswered with regards to diabetes, both diabetes type I and diabetes type II, but one question which is asked time and time again is, why don’t all obese people develop diabetes if there is such a strong link between the two conditions?

This is a very sensible question and we will now attempt to decipher the link between obesity and diabetes and the fact that not all obese people will develop the condition.

Diabetes link to obesity

First of all we need to confirm whether there is indeed a link between obesity and diabetes, especially diabetes type II, in order to look at the situation in more detail. While there is no definitive link, i.e. those who are obese are not precondition to develop diabetes, there is no doubt that excess weight can and does have a major impact upon your chances of developing diabetes. However, in some ways this does simplify the situation too much because there are also other factors to take into consideration.


There is a growing suspicion that both diabetes type I and diabetes type II may also be directly linked to individual genetics. We are all different, our metabolisms work at different speeds and indeed when you get down to the basics our lives are all very different. There may be elements of our everyday activities which can be linked, directly or indirectly, to various medical conditions but it seems as though in some ways we are predetermined or preconditioned to stand more chance of developing certain medical conditions.

There are many instances of generations of families developing both type I diabetes and type II diabetes which seems to indicate that the various genetic switches needed to encourage the condition could be in play from a very early stage. Indeed there is a growing suspicion that when we are born we are genetically preconditioned to be at risk, although not necessary to develop, a whole range of medical conditions.


The overall health of an individual will go a long way to increasing or reducing their chances of developing conditions such as type I diabetes or type II diabetes. Some people may well have a relatively unhealthy lifestyle without showing excess body fat – although there may well be suffering from what is known as “deep fat”, which many experts believe is even more dangerous than large scale obesity.

It is worth noting that many diabetics have reported that in hindsight they should have been aware of their “tipping weight” whereby the chances of developing diabetes increased dramatically. While there are various elementary formulas which offer a potential link between waist size and diabetes this is not always as straightforward as it may seem. The idea that the body’s metabolism and inner workings change when your body reaches a certain weight, i.e. tipping weight, is perhaps not as far-fetched as it may seem?


One thing which is worth taking to account is the fact that just because you have an unhealthy diet does not necessarily mean that you will be obese. There is also the fact that while many people are “big boned” and have relatively large frames they may not necessarily live an unhealthy lifestyle with an unhealthy diet. In many ways it is what we eat, the quantity we eat and the individual food contents which will ultimately decide whether our diet is healthy or unhealthy in the longer term.

There are many different diets available today such as low carbohydrate diets, vegetarian diets, vegan diets, low fibre diet, etc and while some of these will suit individuals and help them to fend off certain medical conditions, the trick is finding a balanced diet for that long term healthy approach.

Playing the percentage game

While there is no evidence to show that those suffering from obesity are predetermined or precondition to develop full-blown diabetes, there is evidence that it does increase your chances of developing the condition. This is just one of many factors which we need to take into consideration when looking at our chances of developing diabetes, with diabetes type II more prevalent today than ever before, and playing the percentage game should help our chances of remaining healthy long-term.

There are many factors which do come into play including your weight, your diet, exercise regime, what you eat, when you eat etc. If we take a step back and look at the data available from various diabetic trials across the world it does seem as though each of these individual factors, and many others, play a role in determining whether or not you will develop the full-blown condition.

It may well be that if you are obese a specific switch is flicked in your body, it may well be that if you eat specific foods this will flick another switch, etc, etc. The very fact that so many issues come into play when looking at diabetes seems to suggest that it will be difficult to find a one cure fits all for this particular condition.

General health

While we can look at the specifics of diabetes and various elements of our everyday life the fact is that if we have a generally healthy lifestyle then this will have a major impact upon whether indeed we do develop diabetes in the future. It is also worth noting that a generally healthy lifestyle also allows you to fight off a variety of other medical conditions which are becoming more commonplace across the globe.


The fact is that not all obese people will develop diabetes, not all diabetics are obese and while there are various elements of our everyday lives and our general health which will impact our chances of developing the condition, there is no one size fits all scenario. If you look at the various elements of our everyday life which may well contribute to our chances of developing diabetes there is the opportunity to “play the numbers game” to the best of our ability.

The very fact that diabetes is so complicated and there are so many avenues which need to be researched would suggest that it will be difficult to find a one size fits all cure. Whether we are correct in this assumption remains to be seen but there do not appear to be any miracle cures on the horizon at the moment.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Richard Mahony November 29, 2012 at 9:58 am

This article fails to shed much light on the matter under discussion primarily because it fails to distinguish between obesity per se, and morbid obesity. By convention, a patient is obese when their BMI is 30 or greater. There is less agreement on morbid obesity. In the UK, GPs working in the NHS usually categorise a patient as morbidly obese when their BMI exceeds 35. In the USA, MDs tend to use a BMI of 40 as the cut-off. What is undeniable, however, is the combination of a very high BMI, for a long time, combined with old age and a very low level of aerobic fitness. For example, if you have a BMI of more than 50 for more than ten years, you are 60 plus, you have a very low level of fitness, and you are female, then your chances of developing diabetes mellitus type 2 are much higher than if you are male, in your twenties, have reasonably good aerobic fitness, and a have a BMI of 30.


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