Obesity and diabetes

Being obese can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.

The term ‘obese’ describes a person who is very overweight, with a lot of body fat. It is a common problem in the UK that’s estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five aged 10-11.

Obesity can lead to conditions such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
  • Stroke


Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem. Obesity is generally caused by consuming more calories, particularly those in fatty and sugary and foods than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat.

There are also some underlying health conditions that can occasionally contribute to weight gain, such as an underactive thyroid gland. However, these types of conditions do not usually cause weight problems if they are effectively controlled with medication.

Obesity can cause a number of further problems, including difficulties with daily activities and serious health conditions. Day-to-day problems related to obesity include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Increased sweating
  • Snoring
  • Difficulty doing physical activity
  • Often feeling very tired
  • Joint and back pain
  • Low confidence and self-esteem
  • Feeling isolated


There is no quick fix to obesity other than to eat a healthily, reduced calorie diet and do regular exercise.

Take up activities such as fast walking, jogging, swimming or other sports such as tennis for at least two-and-a-half to five hours a week. A variety of exercising is beneficial. Read tips on ways you can exercise for free whether you have just a little time each day or longer here

The NHS Choices Couch to 5K running plan will get you moving, even if you have never done or been keen on exercise below. It consists of podcasts delivered over the course of nine weeks and has been designed for absolute beginners.

To begin with, your start running for short periods of time, and as the plan progresses, gradually increase the amount.

At the end of nine weeks, you should be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop, which for most people is around five kilometres, or 3.1 miles.


Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin type 2 diabetes – where the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2. During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes.

Visit your GP as soon as possible if you experience the main symptoms of diabetes, which include: feeling very thirsty urinating more frequently than usual, particularly at night feeling very tired weight loss and loss of muscle bulk itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush cuts or wounds that heal slowly blurred vision.

Type 2 diabetes is often linked to being overweight. That means there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it.

Around 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. If you maintain a healthy weight, you can reduce your risk of developing the condition.

If you think that you may already have symptoms of diabetes, see your GP.

There are no lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of type 1 diabetes.