Why You Need to Know about ‘Diabesity’

I recently added a lecture on ‘diabesity’ to the medical student curriculum at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Here’s why.

Over 90% of people with diabetes also struggle with their excess weight.

‘Diabesity’ is the term we now use for the dual epidemics of diabetes and obesity that are both rising worldwide and often occurring together.

Whether you’re a person struggling with ‘diabesity’ or a health care provider treating patients with these conditions, take note of a significant paradigm shift that is occurring in how we treat diabetes.

As published in Lancet 2021, we are shifting our thinking away from reactive treatment of high blood sugars to sustained weight loss as a primary goal.

Furthermore, the newly updated 2023 Diabetes Standards of Care from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) provides evidence-based recommendations and strategies to implement weight management in patients with type 2 diabetes.

We know that as little as a 5% weight loss improves blood sugar control and other associated risk factors like elevated blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and a 15% weight loss may result in diabetes remission.

Although lifestyle modification is foundational to diabetes care it can be difficult to achieve long-term improvements with changes in health behaviors alone.

For these reasons, we often turn to using medications that target both weight loss and blood sugar control and for some individuals, recommend bariatric surgery.

The updated ADA guidelines outline this approach in people for whom weight management is a primary treatment goal.

If you’re someone who is struggling to manage diabetes along with excess weight, here are some steps you can take:

1- Ask your primary care provider about new available treatments that include medications or bariatric surgery to see if you are a candidate.

2- You can also make an appointment with an obesity medicine physician specialist who may have more experience treating patients with the newer weight loss medications or referring patients to a Center of Excellence for bariatric surgery.

3-Regarding all the available ‘diabesity’ treatments, know that improving your lifestyle is still foundational to boosting your health while also better managing this condition.

Looking for ways to ease into a healthier lifestyle in the New Year?

If so, you can check out my self-help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!


Robert Kushner, MD

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