From your VP Research

My grandfather was diabetic. My mom and my dad are both pre-diabetics. And perhaps some of you readers out there may also have loved-ones or friends that are affected. Luckily, I have a mother who watches out for my diet very carefully, because she does not want me to end up the same. Without her, my meals will consist of so much trans-fat, sodium, and sugar, to the extent that the saying “too much of anything isn’t good for you” applies. As sometimes blind consumers, we often become oblivious to exactly what we are eating and fail to take notice of all the not-so-great things that we consume. And these not so great things – a lot of fat, calories, cholesterol – to name a few, lead to a cluster of unhealthy conditions which characterizes metabolic syndrome. Some of these conditions includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess body fat, etc. Ultimately, metabolic syndrome places you at a greater risk for diabetes. So, one bad thing leads to another. The lesson to be taken is that not one specific thing causes diabetes – many things contribute to it.

However, there are two main types of diabetes, and since we are about to get technical, the formal names are type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Let us remember that glucose (the most basic sugar), is what fuels our body’s cells, but it needs to make it inside the cell that be used. Insulin is a special-something, a hormone to be exact, that allows the cell to take in that glucose. I read an analogy online for insulin and I really liked it. Think of insulin as a key of which “unlocks” the cell to allow glucose intake. In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin, are either mostly destroyed or don’t produce insulin! So then there isn’t any of the key to allow enough glucose intake! And then that means less fuel for the cells.

In type 2 diabetes, the cells of the body do not respond well enough to insulin. Think of the key-hole on the cell as being worn out from having the key used so many times on it, that it starts to change its shape, so it doesn’t fit the key as well anymore. As a result, more and more insulin is needed to get a particular cell to have enough of a response to take in enough glucose. This is known as insulin resistance. Your body may try to make up for the problem by making more and more insulin, but the resistance will continue to increase until you reach a point that your body just can’t make enough insulin to compensate. Let’s say you consume a lot of sugar and have high glucose levels. Your body wants to maintain a stable concentration of glucose in the blood, so it will try to lower that concentration, by having the cells take in the glucose. Insulin is then released to help drive that process, but if your diet is constantly bringing in more glucose into the blood, then overtime, your cells become less sensitive to the insulin; hence, insulin resistance!

Now that you know a bit more about diabetes, our next blog will focus on some of the common symptoms of diabetes, and the common ways in which people deal with it. In future blogs, we will also examine some of the fabulous research that is conducted on diabetes! But most importantly, we want you to know that if you or someone you know is diabetic, pre-diabetic, or worried about becoming diabetic, that you are not alone. Team Diabetes, and many other groups around the world, are out there – with the resources and knowledge to help you understand and alleviate your problems. We are one big community who will always find ways to support each other. Don’t hesitate to contact us about your concerns, we are more than eager to answer your questions! So remember to check back in a few weeks for another blog, and until then – maybe cut down on some Ramen noodles.

Kevin Lu – uOttawa Team Diabetes