There are two types of Diabetes:
Type 1 Insulin dependant Diabetes. This is an autoimmune disease, which occurs because the body accidently creates antibodies against its own cells, specifically here the cells within the Pancreas which make insulin. These cells are called Beta cells and they synthesize the hormone insulin, which regulate blood glucose Level. This results in the Pancreas not being able to make insulin and blood glucose levels therefore rising.
Type 2 Diabetes is different in that it is not usually insulin dependant, i.e. sufferers don’t have to inject insulin into their bodies to treat it. Type 2 arises from insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when the body cells become resistant to insulin and more insulin is therefore required to have the same effect. To understand this better we need to know more about the mechanism of insulin.
Insulin works, to downregulate glucose levels, by causing fat and muscle cells to take up the glucose and metabolise it. The insulin binds to insulin receptors on the cells surfaces and causes them to take in glucose. During insulin resistance this mechanism becomes weaker and the cells become less responsive to the insulin receptors – consequently more insulin is required. Willingly the pancreas responds and make more insulin. But gradually the insulin resistance increases and eventually the Pancreas can no longer continue increasing its production and the individual will develop diabetes
The causes of type 2 diabetes are varied – the most common ones are:
Obesity, Pregnancy (Gestational diabetes), Stress, infection or severe illness and certain medications (including steroids such as prednisone and HIV medications).
Obesity is the main one that is on the rise and many speculate that this is primarily the reason for the rise in type 2 diabetes in the west.
So why do higher blood glucose levels cause a problem? Well if the condition is chronic then it can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart. For the eyes it can cause blindness, the kidneys – kidney failure, neural damage and finally within the vascular system is can rapidify the development of arterosclerosis, which can lead to cerebravascular accident (stroke), coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction.
The good news is that we believe these diseases can be avoided, i.e. you can significantly reduce your chance of developing either type, by maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise. This is particularly important if you are pregnant, although gestational diabetes can occur in slim fit women who are pregnant!