Without insulin, death is a certainty. This morbid certainty was the inescapable fate for type 1 diabetics before the advent of pharmaceutical insulin in 1922.
Yet, the drug developed to save the lives of type 1 diabetics has transformed into one of the highest grossing medications of all time for an entirely different disease: type 2 diabetes.
Effects of Insulin
Stimulate uptake of glucose
Induce synthesis of glycogen (storage of glucose)
increase production of lipids
Decrease autophagy (cellular recycling)
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas, a small organ nestled between the stomach, liver and small intestine. Beta cells are most sensitive to carbohydrates, but also respond to protein and to a much lesser degree fats.
Insulin acts as a key for glucose in the blood stream to enter cells.
This glucose is used to power functions of the cell. Excess glucose is stored as either glycogen or lipid, depending on the type of cell e.g. liver cell or fat cell, respectively.
Insulin is anabolic
The presence of insulin signals a time for building and growth: mobilizing glucose into cells and storing excess glucose for use at a later time.
In Type 1 Diabetes, which typically occurs in childhood, the beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed, leaving the individual with an absolute absence of insulin. This results in an overabundance of glucose which is unable to enter cells. These patients require supplemental insulin in order to power their cells and survive.
Type 2 Diabetes is an entirely different disease.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance: cells are less sensitive to insulin, so less glucose is imported from the bloodstream into cells. So, in sensing a persistently elevated glucose level, the pancreas does what any good pancreas would do: secrete even more insulin. Sufficiently high insulin levels eventually overcome insulin resistance thereby forcing these cells to import glucose from the bloodstream.
Insulin resistance is protective
Truth be told, insulin resistance is somewhat of a protective mechanism: in the setting of caloric excess (being overweight/obese is the number one risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes), cells are protecting themselves from importing excess energy.
The development of type 2 diabetes is marked by elevated blood sugar and insulin levels.
So then, why do doctors treat type 2 diabetes with insulin if type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and insulin excess? Instead of reversing the cause of type 2 diabetes by promoting weight loss, doctors exacerbate the problem by prescribing even more insulin to overcome the insulin resistance.
The result for a type 2 diabetic who is initiated on insulin therapy? Weight gain.
Insulin causes weight gain
This is why type 2 diabetics detest insulin: insulin injections make them even heavier.
On one hand, maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels prevents damage to blood vessels and nerves; yet, on the other hand, initiating insulin leads to weight gain. Although supplemental insulin injections prevent long-term diabetic complications, insulin therapy is a lifetime commitment to diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is reversible
Insulin therapy can be avoided with weight loss
Schedule a consultation to find out how
Fung, Jason. "The Complete Guide to Fasting" Las Vegas: 2016.
Manninen, Anssi H (2004). "Metabolic Effects of the Very-Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Misunderstood "Villains" of Human Metabolism". J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 1 (2): 7–11.
"Insulin Resistance" Hackensack University Medical Group. <http://bergenwomenshealthcare.com/insulin-resistance/>