Diabetes results from not producing enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. This happens because your body can’t make enough insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas, or because your body has become insensitive to insulin and the pancreas can’t make extra to compensate. Your body needs insulin to convert food into energy.
Insulin has two jobs in the body:
1. Move the glucose from the blood into fat and muscle cells.
2. Stop the liver making glucose when the level of glucose in the blood is high enough.
There are three types of diabetes:
People who do not make any insulin (or very little) have Type 1 diabetes. Because the immune system destroys the pancreas they have stopped making insulin, and their body is unable to use glucose for energy. They tend to lose weight very quickly because their body is actually being starved. Their health rapidly deteriorates and they would die if insulin were not given. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar, any particular foods or an unhealthy lifestyle. There is nothing that can be done to prevent this condition developing, and there is no cure. Often there are no symptoms of Type 1 diabetes until more than 90% of the insulin producing cells have been destroyed.
Type 2 diabetes is when there is too much glucose in your blood. Glucose in the blood comes from the foods you eat such as: carbohydrate foods (starchy foods), and sweet foods and drinks. You need to have some glucose in your blood, but it has to be at a healthy level and not too high. High glucose levels can damage your body over time. People with Type 2 diabetes are still making insulin but the production is sluggish or their body is resistant to insulin. In some cases, Type 2 diabetes can be treated with weight loss and regular physical activity. Medication in the form of tablets may be required to reduce the resistance to insulin or to stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition and people with Type 2 diabetes may eventually require insulin.
Diabetes of pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
Gestational diabetes is when a pregnant woman has high levels of glucose in her blood. High blood glucose is caused because the mother cannot produce enough insulin (a pregnant woman's insulin needs are two to three times that of someone who is not pregnant).
In New Zealand, there are now over 157,000 people diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes New Zealand supports people with diabetes throughout the country. Take the right steps and stay healthy. Phone 0800 369 636 to join Diabetes New Zealand or your local diabetes society.
Type 1 diabetes
• Body can’t produce insulin.
• Can be managed but not prevented.
• No cure for Type 1 diabetes.
• Can occur at any age but most often in school age children.
Type 2 diabetes
• Too little insulin produced or not used effectively.
• May be prevented.
• Losing weight, eating healthily and keeping active can all reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
• Risk increases with age but can also develop at a young age.