The ‘fat overspill’ mechanism behind type 2 diabetes and how to reverse it

I’m not a big fan of focusing on weight. It’s too easy to get obsessed with counting pounds and calories, instead of focusing on how healthy you are and how good you feel. But there is a time when weight should be a big focus…

When it comes to preventing and treating Type 2 diabetes.

Did you know that, if you’re a woman, being obese makes your diabetes risk 28 to 93 times higher depending on how obese you are? Or that if you’re overweight, losing five to seven percent of your body weight can slash your prediabetes risk in half? Or that simply losing weight can reverse Type 2 diabetes in some people?

The big question is… why does weight make such a difference in diabetes? And a new study may have revealed the answer…

How too much fat leads to too little insulin

A recent study from researchers at Newcastle University identified the exact process that triggers Type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese people.

The study included people who previously had Type 2 diabetes but had lost weight and reversed the condition as part of a clinical trial. Most people from this trial kept their diabetes in remission, but a small group put the weight back on and ended up with diabetes again.

After performing advanced scanning techniques and blood monitoring on these people, researchers determined why weight and Type 2 diabetes are so closely connected…

See, fat is normally stored under your skin, but when you have too much of it, you run out of room. The amount of fat that you can store under your skin varies from person to person. But what happens once you run out of room is the same for everybody…

Your body starts sending fat to the liver. That causes conditions like fatty liver (another risk factor for Type 2 diabetes). Once your liver is too full, it starts spilling over to other parts of the body, like the pancreas.

According to researchers, this fat then “clogs up” the pancreas, which switches off the genes for proper insulin production and — voila — Type 2 diabetes happens.

The good news is this process is reversible…

Reverse Type 2 diabetes by losing weight

This latest study builds on previous research from Newcastle University. Their previous studies showed that people with Type 2 diabetes could reverse their condition by losing weight.

In one study, a quarter of people lost 33 pounds or more… and 90 percent of those people got their blood sugar control back to normal and reversed their diabetes. Two years later, more than one-third of them were still in remission and weren’t taking any diabetes medication.

How did they lose the weight?

Well, in Newcastle University studies, they lost weight through a low-calorie diet. In one of their studies, participants only ate 600 calories per day for eight weeks. The recommended calorie intake for the average adult is between 1,500 and 2,500 calories per day (depending on sex, age, and weight loss goals), so that’s quite a difference.

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But you don’t have to follow a diet that extreme to lose weight and reverse diabetes. You can try intermittent fasting, the paleo diet, the keto diet, the Mediterranean diet or any other healthy diet that helps you shed pounds.

Although, if you’re extremely obese and you may have to cut calories quite a bit no matter what diet you choose. Cutting 500 calories per day should help you lose one pound per week and cutting 1,000 calories per day should help you lose two pounds per week if your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher.

But be warned, your ability to reverse Type 2 diabetes goes down the longer you have it. So, the sooner you start focusing on weight loss, the better.

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  1. Understand Your Risk for Diabetes — American Heart Association
  2. Overspill of fat shown to cause Type 2 Diabetes — EurekAlert!
  3. Hepatic Lipoprotein Export and Remission of Human Type 2 Diabetes after Weight LossCell Metabolism
  4. Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes — National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  5. The Epidemic of Obesity and DiabetesTeas Heart Institute Journal
  6. Extreme Obesity, And What You Can Do — American Heart Association
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and