Care at NUH

Diabetes and Weight Management

How does weight affect diabetes?
For individuals without diabetes, being overweight increases the risk of future diabetes development. In those with diabetes, excess weight can complicate diabetes control, as it often increases the body’s insulin resistance. 

Additionally, excess weight and fat elevate the risk of hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke and heart disease. However, weight loss through lifestyle modifications can lead to improved control of diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors. 


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How do I know if I am overweight?

Your body mass index (BMI), calculated based on your height and weight, can help assess this. You can use the HealthHub BMI calculator here. 

In Asians, a BMI within the range of 18 – 23 is considered healthy. A BMI over 23 indicates a moderately increased risk of weight-related complications. A BMI above 27.5 signifies a high risk. 

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What are the benefits of weight loss?

Losing weight can lead to numerous health benefits, including: 

  • Decreased HbA1C levels 
  • Lowered blood pressure 
  • Reduced cholesterol levels 
  • Improved diabetes control 
  • Enhanced mobility 
  • Improved quality of life 

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How can I lose weight?

To lose weight effectively, the energy (calories) you expend in daily activities should exceed the calories you consume from food and drinks. 

Weight loss can be achieved through: 


  • Adopting healthy eating habits 
  • Increasing physical activity 

Consult with your doctor about diabetes medication options that do not contribute to weight gain. Based on your specific condition, your doctor may also advise on the potential benefits of anti-obesity medication or bariatric surgery. 

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What kind of diet should I follow for weight loss?

The most effective diet for weight loss is one that can be sustained long-term. A crucial aspect of weight loss is to ensure your diet results in an energy deficit. Consider reducing your daily calorie intake by 500kcal, which can lead to approximately 0.5 kg weight loss per week. 

Strategies for dietary adjustment include: 

  • Reducing portion size: Understanding and controlling the serving sizes of your meals can significantly contribute to weight loss. 
  • Limiting high-calorie foods: Reduce or avoid foods rich in fats or processed carbohydrates with high glycaemic index. These foods not only contribute to weight gain but can also cause spikes in blood sugar levels, impacting diabetes control. 
  • Learn more about the glycaemic index here. 

Discover more about portion sizes and healthy food choices through the My Healthy Plate guide here. Our dietitians can also provide tailored advice on healthy eating for weight and diabetes management. 

If you’re considering alternative diets such as the ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, consult with your doctor first to ensure the diet aligns with your health condition. 

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What are some tools I can use?

Our dietitians have developed the nBuddy Diabetes app, an effective tool for managing both diabetes and weight. This app is available for free. 

Other useful apps include MyFitnessPal and Healthy365 for weight management and food tracking, respectively. 

Explore a variety of healthy recipes at the Health Hub. There are healthy Asian, Indian, International and Western recipes available. 

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What about physical activity? How does physical activity help me?

Engaging in regular physical activity is a key component in weight loss and overall health improvement. The benefits of physical activity include: 

  • Improved diabetes control 
  • Assistance with weight loss and maintaining weight loss 
  • Reduced risk of early death, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and certain cancers 
  • Improved mood and physical function 

Incorporating physical activity into your routine doesn't have to be challenging. It can involve both structured exercise and non-exercise activities. 

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How can I increase physical activity?

One effective way to increase physical activity is by boosting your daily step count. Here are some tips to help you achieve this: 

  • opt for walking or public transport instead of driving or taking a taxi 
  • Choose stairs over elevators or escalators 
  • Incorporate walking breaks into your workday 

Using a smartphone or an activity tracker to monitor your daily steps can be helpful. Aim to gradually increase your step count each week for sustained health benefits. 

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What should I know if I am thinking of starting to exercise?

The main types of exercise are: 


  • Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise: brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming 
  • Resistance or strength training 
  • Flexibility and balance exercises 
     (Note: Some activities are a combination of these exercise types) 

All forms are essential for health, with aerobic exercises aiding in calorie burning and cardiorespiratory fitness, while resistance training supports muscle health. 

If you’re new to exercising, start slowly and progressively increase the frequency, duration or intensity of your activities. For those previously inactive, begin with low-intensity activities, such as brisk walking for 10 minutes, three to five times a week, and gradually extend the duration or frequency. 

Depending on your activity level and diabetes control, it may be necessary to adjust your diabetes medications, particularly to prevent hypoglycaemia. 

For moderate to vigorous exercises (more intense than brisk walking), consult your doctor first. Your doctor can assess your risk, review your medical history, perform a clinical examination and possibly suggest further tests to evaluate your cardiovascular health before you start. 

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Where can I find out more about exercise?

For further guidance on exercise, please visit ActiveHealth. With various labs across Singapore, they offer health coaches and workshops to help improve your health and fitness. If you have conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease, a referral letter from your doctor is required for a health assessment before attending the exercise sessions. 

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