Insulin is key in both forms of diabetes

March 21, 2011

Diabetes treatment is a hormonal balancing act, whether a person has Type 1 or Type 2 of the disease. Type 1 was formerly called juvenile diabetes, and Type 2 was referred to as adult-onset diabetes. Those terms have been discarded since about the mid-1990s, when pediatricians began reporting cases of Type 2 in children and adolescents.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys pancreatic cells that make insulin, the hormone needed to regulate glucose, or sugar, in the blood. It’s commonly diagnosed in childhood, and the majority of children who have diabetes have Type 1. People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin injections to live. Good diet and exercise also help them control their disease, but lifestyle had nothing to do with causing it. Some very thin people, such as Mary Tyler Moore, have Type 1 diabetes.

With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the body develops a resistance to insulin and no longer uses it properly to regulate glucose, or fails to make enough to keep up with blood sugars. Where an individual’s body stores fat, and the kind of fat it stores, are likely factors that influence who gets Type 2 diabetes and who escapes it. But the links between weight and diabetes need more research. In any case, blood becomes overloaded with sugars. Some people with Type 2 diabetes need insulin injections, but many can control their disease with oral medications, a good diet and exercise.

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