What The Heck Is Diabetes Anyway?

the fog of diabetes



Everybody knows what diabetes is, right?  It's when your blood sugar gets so high that you qualify to be called a diabetic.  If you are a type 2 diabetic, this means that your blood sugar is or has been persistently high at one time, and you don't need to inject insulin to survive, like a type 1 does, and type 1's used to die pretty quickly before insulin injections were invented.

So some type 2's are on insulin but we do generally make our own insulin, and in fact we tend to make too much, not too little, like a type 1.  So type 2 is in this sense the opposite of type 1, too much insulin rather than not enough to live.

With type 1 diabetics the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, the cells that make our insulin, and this is an ugly war that we end up losing.  So it's an autoimmune disease, where type 2 isn't, and we actually test people for both insulin secretion and antibodies to see if they have an autoimmune component, and if they do, well we know they are a type 1 of some sort.

There's also type 1.5 as they call it, or LADA, which is a combination of both type 1 and type 2 but is more like type 1 because their immune systems also attack their beta cells, although not as dramatically as a full blown type 1 sees, so things generally take more time to deteriorate and even several years.

So type 1 and type 2 are the major types, and there are also sub types of each, the 1.5 being basically a sub type of type 1, and type 2 has its sub types too, for instance what is called MODY, which is a group of several distinct forms of type 2 basically.

Diabetes is generally considered to be high blood sugar, but in actual fact the high blood sugar is merely a symptom of the disease, whichever one you have, and it's actually a common characteristic of all forms of diabetes mellitus.  The diabetes part actually refers to frequent urination, and there's also diabetes insipidus, which does cause a lot of urination too, but in this case you don't get high blood sugar you just get a lot of urination.

The mellitus part is what actually refers to the sugar, so now we have something that makes you urinate a of sugar.  Unless you are really uncontrolled though you don't really urinate sugar, but back in the day people didn't have treatments for diabetes and were pretty clueless about it, and people with diabetes mellitus did urinate a lot of sugar, so that's where the name came from.

So we're less clueless now but not by as big of a margin as a lot of people think, which I will be getting into more as the discussion progresses.  

So with this simple stuff out of the way, next time I'll be talking about what type 2 diabetes is in particular, and the general view is definitely pretty off base.

Next: Type 2 Diabetes

Previous: Why This All Matters

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8 Comments on “What The Heck Is Diabetes Anyway?

  1. Hi Ken, Congratulations for maintaining such an informative and well designed blog. Just as I enjoy your posts on diabetes related e-forums I enjoy this blog of yours too. Now, what the heck is diabetes anyway? Being a diagnosed diabetic (T2) for ten years and having read innumerable posts/articles/blogs on diabetes and diet, I still have no clear idea about the what, why and how of diabetes. Over the years, I found out what works for me and am following it. Fortunately diabetes has been kind to me so far in that I don’t have to seriously medicate myself or follow any rigid and extreme diet plans, allowing me to follow a relatively care-free lifestyle as I had been doing before the diagnosis of my diabetes.

    One day I may get a clear insight into what diabetes really is. 🙂

    1. Hi Rad, thanks for the comment! So of course we’re all trying to figure out what the heck diabetes is and I hope the readers get the correct impression that there’s lots and lots yet to figure out. I admire your results and in particular your setting a great example of how one may achieve very good results without becoming a dietary monk. You have inspired me and I have worked hard to get to that level of achievement although there is much left to do 😉

  2. I hope that you see this post, as I was unable to post on the page that it relates to. Re high fat diet for rats and mice, 43% of calories appears to be the standard. Allow 15% protein, that leaves 42% for carbs. Next you need to ask what fat?? It could be anything from olive oil to margarine, including its trans fats. As for the carbs, I understand high fructose corn syrup is cheap!!!

    1. Well we do have to look at the macro mix in a given study, but 43% isn’t particularly high fat at all, it only seems to be in comparison to what people are being recommended these days. There is a real interplay between the macros though, especially between fat and carbs, and this can be influenced for sure by the kind of fat and carbs. So thanks for bringing this up and we definitely need to take these things into consideration when we are looking at data, especially given that experimenters almost always are biased toward a certain result.

      1. Hi! Thanks for responding. I’ve been reading your articles and I want to say thank you for pointing me back towards the glucagon problem. I’d been forgetting about it. Re bias in research, it is a sorry state of affairs that the most important research is being funded by people with an axe to grind.

  3. Glucagon is a huge deal and if you get that then you’re way ahead of the curve that’s for sure. I think with research there is almost always bias present, but fortunately not all of it is funded by those who seek to profit from ill health. We do need to always be wary of this, not just when we disagree with the findings or question the motives of the researchers. Thanks so much for commenting!

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