If you’ve spent some time on our website, you will have noticed we talk a lot about diabetes. That’s because there’s a proven link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes. But what exactly is diabetes, and what is the difference between type-=1 and 2?
The first thing you need to know is that type-1 and type-2 diabetes are in fact two very different diseases. Known medically as diabetes mellitus, diabetes is a disorder of the body’s metabolism, which refers to the way the body digests and uses food for energy and growth. The majority of the food we eat is broken down into glucose (a form of sugar), where it enters the blood stream. The pancreas then produces the hormone insulin, which transports the blood glucose to the cells, where it is converted into energy. With both type-1 and type-2 diabetes, the sugar in the blood does not enter the cells – so what makes these conditions so different?
Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that usually presents itself before a person is 20, which is why used to be called ‘juvenile onset diabetes’. It is much rarer than type-2 diabetes and affects around 10-15% of the population. With this type of diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s immune response. This means that someone with type-1 diabetes will have to take insulin for the rest of their life. Unlike type-2 diabetes, it is not caused by diet or lifestyle, and cannot be fixed by exercise or changing eating habits.
Type-2 diabetes is linked to being overweight and consuming too much sugar, with 85% of all cases occurring in obese people. It usually presents itself after the age of 35, which is why it was previously known as ‘adult onset diabetes’. The abundance of sugar and today’s more sedentary lifestyle have been linked to an increasing amount of children and young adults falling victim to this disease.
Type-2 diabetes causes insulin resistance. At the start of the disease, patients have plenty of insulin, but it just doesn’t work properly. Diet and exercise are often used to treat type-2 diabetes, and in some cases this will work. If this doesn’t, the patient will need to take insulin.
Both forms of diabetes can have serious long-term effects on the heart, eyes and kidneys. Scientists know that obesity puts people at risk of developing type-2 diabetes, but the mechanism is complex and not fully understood. For now, we know that regular exercise, cutting out sugar and staying at a healthy BMI helps to prevent this complex medical condition.