The management of the obese diabetic patient

Jeanine Albu, Nazia Raja-Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is increasing in the United States and worldwide. These diseases are predicted to explode to epidemic proportions, unless appropriate counteractive measures are taken. Several large studies (DCCT, UKPDS, Kumamoto) clearly showed that intensive glycemic control in the diabetic patient reduced microvascular complications and improved mortality. Despite this, the NHANES III showed that only 50% of diabetics have been able to achieve a HgbAic level that is less than 7%; this suggests the need for a re-evaluation of our approach to these patients. The management of the obese diabetic patient involves glycemic control and weight reduction. These goals are particularly difficult to achieve in the obese diabetic patient because progressive β-cell dysfunction and increasing insulin resistance necessitates the administration of increasingly higher dosages of insulin, which, in turn, promotes weight gain. A vicious cycle may ensue. Lifestyle modifications with diet and exercise are an essential part of the management of the obese diabetic patient. These measures alone are often insufficient and concomitant pharmacologic therapy is usually required to achieve glycemic and weight control. Oral agents that improve glycemia, decrease insulin resistance, and limit weight gain are desirable. Because of the progressive nature of diabetes, glycemic control with monotherapy often deteriorates over time, which necessitates the addition of other pharmacologic agents, including insulin. When insulin therapy is required in the treatment of the obese diabetic patient, combinations with oral agents that have been shown to minimize the amount of exogenous insulin that is required, may minimize weight gain. In addition, the obese diabetic patient who is poorly controlled with maximum oral hypoglycemic therapy may benefit from weight-reducing agents, such as sibutramine or orlistat. The introduction of these agents at other points in the management of the obese diabetic patients have been successful. Finally, for the severely obese diabetic patient, bariatric surgery may be the only effective treatment. Gastric bypass has been unequivocally shown to produce significant weight loss and improve glycemic control on a long-term basis in the obese diabetic patient. It is recommended that physicians avail themselves of all of these strategies in the management of the obese patient who has type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-491
Number of pages27
JournalPrimary Care - Clinics in Office Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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