Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a crucial role in regulating glucose metabolism in the body. Insulin helps regulate the amount of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. When we eat, our body breaks down the carbohydrates in our food into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. This increase in glucose levels signals the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream, which then helps move the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for energy or stored for later use.
Insulin also helps regulate the storage of excess glucose as fat, so that it can be used as energy later on when glucose levels in the blood drop. This ensures that our body has a constant source of energy.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, and people with this condition need to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to regulate their blood glucose levels. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly, and the pancreas may not produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs, so treatment typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to help regulate glucose levels.
Etymology and Discovery
The word “insulin” is derived from the Latin word “insula,” which means “island.” The hormone was named insulin because it was discovered in 1921 to be produced by the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, which are small clusters of cells dispersed throughout the organ.
The discovery of insulin is widely considered one of the major breakthroughs in the history of medicine. The hormone was discovered in 1921 by Canadian physician Sir Frederick Banting and medical student Charles Best. Banting and Best were working at the University of Toronto and were tasked with finding a way to treat diabetes, a disease that was poorly understood at the time and often fatal.
After conducting a series of experiments on dogs, Banting and Best were able to isolate insulin and showed that it could be used to effectively lower high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. The discovery of insulin revolutionized the treatment of diabetes and transformed it from a deadly disease to a manageable condition.
There have been several books written about the discovery of insulin and its impact on the treatment of diabetes. Some of the notable books include:
- “The Discovery of Insulin” by Michael Bliss (1982): This book is considered a classic in the field and provides a comprehensive history of the discovery of insulin and its impact on the treatment of diabetes.
- “Banting: A Biography” by Michael Bliss (1984): This biography of Sir Frederick Banting provides a detailed look at the life and work of the man who discovered insulin.
- “The Trail of Insulin” by J. Russell Makin (1950): This book provides a detailed account of the discovery of insulin and its impact on the treatment of diabetes.
These books were published by various publishers including the University of Chicago Press, McClelland and Stewart, and Oxford University Press.
Controlling Blood Sugar
Insulin is indeed a peptide hormone produced by the beta cells located in the pancreas, specifically in a region called the islets of Langerhans. The production and release of insulin are regulated by the INS gene, which provides the instructions for the synthesis of insulin.
The beta cells in the pancreas monitor the levels of glucose in the bloodstream and release insulin in response to rising glucose levels, which helps move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. Insulin also helps regulate the storage of excess glucose as fat, so that it can be used as energy later on when glucose levels in the blood drop.
The precise regulation of insulin secretion by the pancreas is critical for maintaining healthy glucose levels in the body, and disruptions in insulin function can lead to a number of health problems, including diabetes. Understanding the role of insulin and the regulation of its production and secretion is a crucial area of research in the field of endocrinology and metabolism.
Insulin controls blood sugar levels by regulating the movement of glucose into the cells of the body where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. When glucose levels in the bloodstream rise, for example after a meal, the beta cells in the pancreas release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin then acts on cells throughout the body, including muscle, fat, and liver cells, to promote the uptake and storage of glucose.
Once inside the cells, glucose is either used immediately for energy or converted into glycogen, a storage form of glucose, for later use. The conversion of glucose to glycogen is facilitated by insulin, which stimulates the liver and muscle cells to take up glucose and store it as glycogen.
At the same time, insulin also stimulates the cells to take up excess glucose and convert it into fatty acids, which can be stored in the fat cells. This helps regulate blood glucose levels and ensures that the body has a constant source of energy.
Insulin is considered to be the main anabolic hormone of the body, meaning it promotes the storage of energy as glycogen, fat, and protein in the body. As you mentioned, insulin regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein by promoting the uptake and storage of glucose in liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells.
In terms of carbohydrate metabolism, insulin promotes the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, where it can be used for energy or stored as glycogen. It also stimulates the liver to convert excess glucose into glycogen for storage.
In terms of fat metabolism, insulin stimulates the cells to take up excess glucose and convert it into fatty acids, which can be stored in the fat cells. Insulin also suppresses the breakdown of stored fat and the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream, which helps regulate blood glucose levels.
In terms of protein metabolism, insulin promotes the synthesis of new proteins and the storage of amino acids in the cells. This helps to maintain and build muscle tissue, and also supports the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body.
Why do Humans Run out of Insulin
Humans can run out of insulin due to a number of different reasons, the most common of which is a condition called diabetes. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This leads to a complete lack of insulin in the body and requires the individual to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to replace the missing hormone.
In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with the body’s needs. This leads to elevated blood glucose levels and a relative insulin deficiency. In some cases, individuals with type 2 diabetes may also require insulin therapy in addition to other treatments to help manage their condition.
In addition to diabetes, there are a number of other factors that can contribute to a shortage of insulin in the body, including damage to the pancreas, certain medications, hormonal imbalances, and genetic conditions.
Certain medications can damage the pancreas and lead to a shortage of insulin. Some examples of medications that have been associated with pancreatic damage include:
- Azathioprine: This is an immunosuppressive drug used to treat autoimmune diseases and prevent organ rejection in transplant patients.
- Didanosine (ddI): This is a medication used to treat HIV infection.
- Dideoxycytidine (ddC): This is another medication used to treat HIV infection.
- Methotrexate: This is a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases.
- Valproic acid: This is an anticonvulsant drug used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder.
- High doses of glucocorticoids, such as prednisone: These are steroids used to treat a variety of conditions, including inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
While these medications have been associated with pancreatic damage, they can still be an important part of treatment for certain medical conditions. If you are taking any of these medications and have concerns about their potential impact on your pancreas, it’s best to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider.
Excessive consumption of sugar can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and, over time, potentially lead to the damage of the pancreas.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin and require higher and higher levels of insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. Over time, this can place a significant strain on the pancreas, leading to a progressive decline in its ability to produce insulin.
In addition, consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to elevated blood glucose levels, which can cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, including the pancreas. Over time, this can damage the cells of the pancreas, potentially leading to a decline in insulin production and increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
While consuming large amounts of sugar can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and potentially lead to damage of the pancreas, not everyone who consumes sugar will develop these problems. There are many factors that can contribute to the development of insulin resistance and diabetes, including genetics, age, obesity, and lifestyle factors.
It is generally recommended to limit sugar consumption and focus on a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, as part of a healthy lifestyle to help maintain normal blood glucose levels and prevent or manage insulin resistance and other health problems.
There have been numerous studies conducted on the subject of insulin resistance, and many more are ongoing. Here are a few examples of studies on insulin resistance, including their authors, dates, and publications:
- “Insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance: association with multiple cardiovascular risk factors.” Author: Reaven, G. M. Date: 1988. Publication: The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
- “Metabolic and molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance.” Author: Samuel, V. T. Date: 2012. Publication: Physiological Reviews.
- “The role of inflammation in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.” Author: Hotamisligil, G. S. Date: 2006. Publication: Annual Review of Immunology.
- “Mechanisms of insulin resistance: common threads and missing links.” Author: Shulman, G. I. Date: 2000. Publication: The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
- “Insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.” Author: Reaven, G. M. Date: 1997. Publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In some cases, it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes. However, the best way to reverse the condition depends on the individual and the severity of their diabetes. Here are a few approaches that have been shown to be effective in reversing type 2 diabetes:
- Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and increasing physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity and reverse type 2 diabetes in some people. This approach is often the first line of treatment for people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as metformin, can help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In some cases, combination therapy with multiple medications may be necessary to effectively manage blood glucose levels.
- Bariatric surgery: In severe cases of obesity and type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery can be an effective way to achieve rapid and substantial weight loss, which can help reverse insulin resistance and improve blood glucose control.
Reversing type 2 diabetes requires a long-term commitment to lifestyle changes and, in some cases, ongoing use of medications. In addition, the success of these approaches will vary depending on the individual, and some people may not be able to achieve complete remission of their diabetes.
If you have type 2 diabetes and are interested in exploring options for reversing the condition, it’s best to work with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan that takes into account your specific needs and health status.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what diet works best for reversing type 2 diabetes, as the best diet for each person depends on a variety of factors, including their individual health status, medication regimen, and lifestyle. However, there are a few dietary approaches that have been shown to be effective in improving blood glucose control and potentially reversing type 2 diabetes in some people:
- Low-carbohydrate diets: Low-carbohydrate diets, such as the ketogenic diet, have been shown to be effective in improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. These diets typically restrict the consumption of carbohydrates in favor of protein and healthy fats.
- Mediterranean diets: The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Plant-based diets: Plant-based diets, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet, have been shown to be effective in improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. These diets are typically rich in fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which are beneficial for overall health and glucose control.
These diets should be individualized and tailored to meet the specific needs and health status of each person with type 2 diabetes. Working with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help ensure that a person’s diet is nutritionally balanced and meets their unique needs.
Here are three studies that have investigated the effects of low-carbohydrate diets on type 2 diabetes:
- “Improved glycemic control and lipid profile and normalized fibrinolytic activity on a low-carbohydrate diet in type 2 diabetic patients“, published in the “Metabolism” journal in 2002. Authors: Volek JS, Feinman RD, et al.
- “Low carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism”, published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2007. Authors: Feinman RD, Pogozelski WK, et al.
- “The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus”, published in the “Nutrition & Metabolism” journal in 2008. Authors: Yancy WS Jr, Olsen MK, et al.
These studies provide evidence for the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets in improving insulin sensitivity, blood glucose control, and other metabolic markers in people with type 2 diabetes. The optimal dietary approach for each person with type 2 diabetes will depend on a variety of factors, including their individual health status, medication regimen, and lifestyle.
There have been many studies that have investigated the effects of plant-based diets on type 2 diabetes:
- “Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis“, published in the “Nutrition Reviews” journal in 2016. Authors: Kim Y,Lee JE, et al.
- “Plant-based diets for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes”, published in the “Nutrition” journal in 2018. Authors: Neabore B, Wirth MD, et al.
- “Vegetarian diets in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes”, published in the “Journal of Geriatric Cardiology” in 2015. Authors: Eshwar N, Sinha R, et al.
These studies suggest that plant-based diets, such as vegan or vegetarian diets, can be effective in improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes.
Compare Vegan Vs Vegetarian
One study, published in the “Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases” journal in 2013, compared a low-fat vegan diet to a low-fat lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet in people with type 2 diabetes. The study found that both diets improved glycemic control and lipid profiles, but the low-fat vegan diet was more effective in reducing body weight and HbA1c levels compared to the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet.
Another study, published in the “Journal of Geriatric Cardiology” in 2015, compared a vegan diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet in elderly people with type 2 diabetes. The study found that both diets improved glycemic control, but the vegan diet was more effective in reducing HbA1c levels and body weight compared to the lacto-vegetarian diet.
These studies suggest that a well-planned vegan diet may be more effective than a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet in improving glycemic control and metabolic markers in people with type 2 diabetes. However, it’s important to emphasize that these findings are specific to the populations and diets studied, and may not generalize to other populations or diets.
Intermittent fasting has gained popularity in recent years as a means of improving health and managing chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes. Some studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may have beneficial effects on blood glucose control, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic markers in people with type 2 diabetes.
The evidence on the effects of intermittent fasting on type 2 diabetes is still limited, and more research is needed to fully understand its safety and efficacy. Additionally, the optimal type and frequency of intermittent fasting will depend on individual factors such as health status, medication regimen, and lifestyle, and should be guided by a healthcare provider or registered dietitian.
People with type 2 diabetes who are interested in trying intermittent fasting should do so under the supervision of a healthcare provider, and should monitor their blood glucose levels closely to avoid hypoglycemia. They should also ensure that they consume a balanced and nutrient-dense diet during their eating periods to meet their nutrient needs.