While scientists and researchers are still working out exactly to what extent being overweight and obese negatively affects health (some studies have revealed that extra weight could actually have a protective effect against some diseases, and may even extend lifespan1,2,3,4), the general consensus among medical professionals is that being overweight or obese contributes to a range of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and joint problems such as arthritis.5,6
Being overweight or obese can also reduce the quality of life in a number of ways—by limiting a person’s mobility, making things like air travel difficult and diminishing self-esteem.7
Carrying extra weight can also put pressure on the bladder causing urinary incontinence (UI) or make it worse8,9, which is a condition that one in three women will suffer with at some point in her life.
Diet can also affect bladder control. We’ll explore in more detail how weight and nutrition can contribute to urinary incontinence, and we’ll look at ways to improve symptoms.
Pressure Points: How Extra Weight Affects Bladder Control
A review of the epidemiological literature covering the association between obesity and urinary incontinence showed that obesity is indeed a strong risk factor for urinary incontinence. The review found that for every 5-unit increase in body mass index (e.g., an increase in BMI from 25 to 30) the odds of developing UI increased by 30 to 60 percent over a 5 to 10-year period.10
The same review also found that there may be a stronger association with excess weight and both stress incontinence and mixed incontinence than with overactive bladder syndrome.
Another study found that older women who have stronger muscles and better grip strength are less likely to develop or continue experiencing stress incontinence.11
Losing even a modest amount of weight can help reduce bladder leakage, especially stress incontinence, which is linked not only to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and obesity but also to diabetes and prediabetes. One study showed that prediabetic women who lost weight reduced their likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and experienced improved bladder control.12