February 27, 2021

Does Diabetes Cause Weight Loss or Weight Gain?

Does Diabetes Cause Weight Loss or Gain?

For most, weight loss is considered a good way to prevent and manage diabetes. Losing weight improves cardiovascular health, reduces the risk of high blood pressure, maintains blood glucose levels, cuts insulin resistance, and more. In some cases, though, diabetes and the related treatments can cause uncontrolled fluctuations in weight. 

Can Diabetes Cause Weight Loss?

Yes. Even though purposeful weight loss is recommended in diabetic treatments, uncontrolled and unintentional weight loss can also happen to people with diabetes.

Why Does Diabetes Cause Weight Loss?

Diabetes mellitus reduces your body’s production and/or its response to insulin, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels by helping your body convert glucose into energy. If cells can’t create or use enough insulin to convert glucose into energy, they may think your body’s starving and start consuming muscle and body fat instead. 

If blood sugars are high in a diabetes patient, it can make them urinate frequently, and this results in dehydration as a possible cause of weight loss. Muscle breakdown can also occur if blood sugars are too high, which can cause unhealthy weight loss.

What Kind of Diabetes Makes You Lose Weight?

It’s common for Type 1 diabetics to experience uncontrolled weight loss, but it can happen to Type 2 diabetics as well.

Does Diabetes Cause Weight Gain?

Exercising, eating right, and maintaining a healthy weight are at the core of every Type 2 diabetes treatment plan. For some people, that’s enough. But when it’s not, insulin therapy is a treatment option that can help. Unfortunately, weight gain is one of the possible side effects of insulin treatment. For diabetes patients who need to control both diabetes and their weight, this can become a frustrating cycle. You may feel disheartened when you feel that the treatment is part of the problem. With diabetes, getting your blood sugar under control is an essential task. Insulin is used because it works when other treatments don’t or are contraindicated (shouldn’t be used because it’s harmful to that particular person). The cost of insulin varies, and lower-cost insulin types are associated with more weight gain. 

Weight and Diabetes: How to Control Fluctuations

Below, we’ll outline specific strategies for controlling weight fluctuations in patients with diabetes. 

How to Control Weight Loss Due to Diabetes

If you’re a diabetic experiencing unexplained weight loss it’s important to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. The reason it’s so important is that other conditions could be contributing to the weight loss, including:

Here are some things you can do if you’re a diabetic currently experiencing weight loss, including but not limited to:

  • Keeping track of your calorie intake
  • Eating full-fat dairy products
  • Limiting caffeine and avoiding low-calorie foods
  • Adding oil to vegetables and greens
  • Eating healthy, high-calorie foods
  • Eating smaller portions more frequently
  • Increasing protein intake
  • Adding resistance training as a part of your workout routine
  • Adding nutritional supplements to your diet

How to Manage Uncontrolled Diabetes Weight Gain

If you’re gaining weight and have diabetes, you can make some adjustments that can help, including:

  • Increase exercise and adjust your diet. Talk to your doctor and to a nutrition specialist about a food plan that takes the insulin effects into account. You can also work a little more activity into your daily routine, which may mean adjusting your insulin level. Make sure to keep your doctor informed and keep working on good diet and exercise habits.
  • Reassess your medications. If exercise and reducing your calorie intake isn’t helping offset weight gain, try evaluating what type of insulin you’re taking. Insulin analogs (modified human insulin) may cause less weight gain. There are some medications for Type 2 diabetes that can cause weight loss as a side effect, so talk with your doctor to see if those are appropriate for you.
  • Discuss options with your doctor. To understand all the reasons you might be gaining weight, it’s always best to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can tell you which of your medications might have weight gain as a side effect and what alternatives are available. 

Learn More About Weight and Diabetes Management from Baptist Health

To learn more about weight fluctuation and diabetes, find a Baptist Health Endocrinologist near you.

Next Steps and Useful Resources:

10 Nutrition Tips for Someone With Diabetes
What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
The Relationship Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
Take a Health Risk Assessment

Learn More.