Defining Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Defining Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

When you think about diabetes, you likely think of the diabetes that develops over time due to poor diet, physical inactivity, or weight gain. People rarely think of the diabetes that used to be commonly known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. Yes, there are different types and, after reading this, you'll know the difference; it's the first step in true knowledge about your health and will help prevent you from developing the more common diabetes you're probably more familiar with.

Type 1 Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, only 5 percent of the population has Type 1 Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease, the exact cause of which is not known. A great deal of research is focused on this very topic.

So far, research indicates the immune system mistakenly destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The body treats the cells as foreign invaders and destroys them. The destruction can happen over a few weeks, months, or years. When enough beta cells are destroyed, the pancreas stops making insulin, or makes too little insulin. Because the pancreas does not make insulin, insulin needs to be replaced. Although Type 1 Diabetes is typically diagnosed in young people, it can occur at any age.

Those with Type 1 Diabetes may be given oral medications until it becomes clear that they have the diabetes antibodies in their blood. However, as time goes on and as their beta cells die, their ability to produce insulin declines. The body cannot survive without the ability to produce and use insulin to transport carbohydrate to the muscles and brain. Therefore, those with Type I Diabetes need insulin replacement. Commonplace treatment includes blood glucose sensors and insulin pumps.

Type 2 Diabetes

Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes make insulin, but typically don't use it as efficiently or effectively. A loss of insulin sensitivity at the muscle and brain level, also known as insulin resistance, is a primary problem in Type 2 diabetics.

At first, when the receptor cells in the muscles and brain become more and more resistant to insulin, the pancreas works very hard to make more and more insulin. Unfortunately, the additional insulin the pancreas’ beta cells put out, the sooner the pancreas wears out.

If someone initially diagnosed with Type 2, or even pre-diabetes, begins eating lower amounts of carbohydrate, rather than excessive amounts from things like sweetened beverages, alcohol, empty calorie items, etc., has lean protein instead of high-fat protein, increases their fiber, eats smaller meals between the hours of 4am and 10am, this person can optimize insulin sensitivity at the receptor sites along muscles and brain, potentially saving their pancreas and reversing the condition.

Conversely, eating excessive amount of carbohydrate, high fat proteins, (especially animal fats), low fiber foods, large volumes of food in the mornings and failing to exercise can all lead to insulin resistance and faster failure of the beta cells.

Some medications may help improve insulin sensitivity. However, both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are progressive diseases and, although Type 1 declines quite rapidly and unpreventably in some cases, both types of Diabetes lead to extensive negative consequences unless blood glucose values are kept within the range of 70-130, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Gestational Diabetes

Another form, Gestational diabetes (GDM), can develop during pregnancy. For most women, blood glucose levels will return to normal after giving birth. If you’ve had GDM, you will need to be tested regularly since you are at much higher risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.

In Short?

Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disorder, presented very evidently through antibodies in the blood work, while Type 2 Diabetes is more of an insulin resistance disorder, primarily caused by lifestyle choices. Gestational Diabetes is temporary, but can lead to a tremendously higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Hopefully, this information helps you decipher the various forms of diabetes. Need some preventative help? Search this site for recipes and articles that will help you navigate the world of low-glycemic options, low-impact physical activity and the support tools you need to live a healthier life.

Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator


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