Unexplained weight loss in diabetes
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Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience

You are delighted when your clothing size reduces or your friend or relative points out that you look slimmer. But have you been losing weight without dieting or exercising? Losing a kilo or two is normal. But losing more than 5% of your body weight within days is a reason for concern.

There are various causes of unexplained weight loss and diabetes is one of them. Excess weight is a risk factor for the development of diabetes. So when you lose weight, diabetes is the last thing you would suspect. But when you visit a doctor with concerns about your unintentional weight loss, chances are that you may be diagnosed with diabetes. Dramatic weight loss over several days is one of the symptoms at the beginning of the condition.

What causes the weight loss in diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas. It helps transport glucose from the food you eat to cells in your body. It also helps maintain blood glucose levels.

In diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or is not able to use the insulin it produces effectively. This hampers the transport and utilisation of glucose and causes it to builds up in the blood. When the glucose doesn’t reach your cells, your body starts burning fat for energy. These effects cause you to lose weight.

Why is unexplained weight loss not good?

Unexplained loss of weight isn’t normal. When you lose weight unintentionally, your body doesn’t get the right nutrients in the right quantities. Your body cells are robbed of energy making you tired and irritable.

As the built-up glucose is expelled through urine, an increased amount of water is expelled too. This decreases your body fluid. You become dehydrated, feel thirsty and have increased urination. And if untreated, high blood sugar may lead to short-term and/or long-term health complications and damage your vital organs like heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Read about the eight early signs of diabetes-related complications that you might be ignoring.

When the glucose doesn’t make it to the cells, your body starts breaking down fat and muscle to fulfil its energy needs. Your muscle mass is wasted away.

Last but not the least; unexplained weight loss could be a sign of other serious underlying conditions like thyroid abnormality, cancer, etc.

When should you visit your doctor?

Pay a visit to the doctor if you have excessive thirst or hunger, urinate more frequently and have unintentionally lost more than 5% of your body weight. The doctor will evaluate and diagnose your condition and treat you accordingly.

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  1. Napolitano A, Miller S, Murgatroyd PR, et al. Exploring glycosuria as a mechanism for weight and fat mass reduction. A pilot study with remogliflozin etabonate and sergliflozin etabonate in healthy obese subjects. Journal of Clinical & Translational Endocrinology. 2014;1(1):e3-e8. doi:10.1016/j.jcte.2013.12.001.

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