Type 2 diabetes is a condition whereby the body is unable to produce and/or use insulin effectively.
The body’s inability to produce and use insulin effectively becomes problematic because every time we eat glucose-containing products, we need insulin to process and transport glucose to cells in the body.
Glucose is the most important energy source in the body. If glucose doesn’t reach the cells, and the levels in our bloodstream remain high, it can lead to a number of health complications and a diabetes diagnosis.
Let’s talk about type 2 diabetes, the causes of diabetes and the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
- What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
- What Is The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin isn’t sufficient for healthy utilisation of glucose.
If you are living with type 2 diabetes, it means that the pancreas is not producing enough insulin to work effectively with the glucose you consume.
In other instances, the liver may be producing enough insulin but the cells that absorb glucose are resistant to the insulin. This is known as “insulin resistance.”
Type 2 diabetes is also known as “adult-onset diabetes” and “diabetes mellitus type 2.”
Type 2 diabetes was traditionally referred to as “adult-onset” diabetes because it was commonly diagnosed later in life, and is more deeply connected to lifestyle factors as opposed to genetics. In more recent times, it is referred to less often as adult-onset diabetes because of the increased incidence of childhood obesity and early diagnosis.
45-64 years is the most common age to receive a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Among adults in the U.S, type 2 diabetes is most likely to affect African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may take years to develop, however over time, uncontrolled blood sugar will lead to the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
If you aren’t living with type 2 diabetes, the following occurs:
- You eat food.
- Food is converted to glucose in the stomach.
- Glucose enters the bloodstream.
- Insulin is released from the pancreas and attaches itself to the outside of cells.This results in the transport and absorption of glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
- Your cells receive a sufficient amount of glucose to turn into energy.
- The cycle repeats.
If you are living with type 2 diabetes, the following occurs:
- You eat food.
- Glucose is released from the food you eat.
- Glucose enters the bloodstream.
- The pancreas starts producing insulin, however insulin does not interact successfully with the glucose.
- Glucose cannot enter the cells to be successfully converted into energy.
- Blood glucose levels increase.
- The cycle repeats and blood glucose/sugar levels continue to rise.
- Medical intervention may be necessary.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes may be caused by:
- Insulin resistance
- Family history
Insulin resistance is a condition that occurs when excess glucose in the blood cannot be absorbed or used properly, despite the presence of insulin. This means that the cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t acknowledge the signals that insulin is trying to stimulate in the body. Glucose therefore cannot be moved into the cells. This can lead to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis down the line.
Genes may have an effect on the beta cells of the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. These changes may reduce the sensitivity that insulin has to glucose, causing type 2 diabetes down the line.
It has been shown that there are over 150 DNA variations that are associated with type 2 diabetes. These variations are said to have a very slow yet significant impact over time.
Family history may impact on your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests that family history plays a significant role in whether someone will develop type 2 diabetes, however, it is important to note that another school of thought is that the development of type 2 diabetes is largely connected to nurture instead of nature/genetics.
In other terms, if someone has a learned unhealthy lifestyle which has led to family members developing type 2 diabetes, you could hypothesize that if you follow the same lifestyle, there is also an increased risk that you may develop type 2 diabetes.
Some of the most common risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
- Body weight
Ageing is a natural part of life, as we age, we have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. From the age of 45 years and onwards, it is believed that the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes increases much more. This may be connected to doing less exercise, the loss of muscle mass and increased body fat, all of which make the body more susceptible to insulin resistance.
Nutrition plays a significant role in your overall health and a very significant role in your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Following a diet that is high in preservatives and sugar increases your risk of type 2 diabetes as it raises your blood sugar.
Poor dietary choices, especially those that are rich in sugar can lead to sugar spikes and sugar lows, leading to problems with the delicate balance between insulin and glucose.
On top of that, regularly eating “junk food” can lead to excess weight gain, which is another risk for type 2 diabetes as you are at an increased risk of experiencing insulin resistance.
Exercise, like nutrition plays a significant role in your overall health and a very significant role in your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise helps to control your blood sugar levels and helps your body to use glucose more effectively.
Many people who live a sedentary lifestyle, cannot produce and use insulin effectively. This is a form of insulin resistance or reduced sensitivity to insulin.
Body weight is both a cause and a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, there is an increased chance of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, compared to those who are of a healthy weight.
Conversely, if you have type 2 diabetes and you are overweight or obese, the condition is harder to control in the long run.
Insulin resistance is more common among those who are overweight or obese. If you are living with insulin resistance, it means that the body is unable to effectively transport glucose into the cells. When the body’s cells struggle to absorb glucose, the pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin.
If the pancreas is constantly under pressure to produce more and more insulin, it may lead to the pancreas may eventually become run down which will lead to little to no insulin being produced.
What Is The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
There are a few differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There are also a number of similarities.
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition.
- Type 2 diabetes develops over time, usually as a result of insulin resistance.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is producing insulin but the body’s cells may have become resistant to it.
- Diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes will have a limited impact on a type diabetes diagnosis.
- Diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes will have a positive impact on a type diabetes diagnosis.
- Type 1 diabetes is sometimes described as the total deterioration of beta cells of the pancreas.
- Type 2 diabetes is sometimes described as a slow deterioration of beta cells of the pancreas.
- If you are living with type 1 diabetes, you may be dependent on insulin for the rest of your life.
- If you are living with type 2 diabetes, you may require insulin or oral diabetes medicine at interval periods during your life.
If you are concerned about symptoms, or you are simply curious about your blood sugar, you should get checked for diabetes.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O’ Sullivan