The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

The number of diabetes suffers are growing rapidly, and it’s one of the main diseases associated with a typical Western lifestyle. There are two types of diabetes and they...

The number of diabetes suffers are growing rapidly, and it’s one of the main diseases associated with a typical Western lifestyle. There are two types of diabetes and they are caused by very different things, but have the same result – the inability to effectively control blood sugar levels. This article will explain the differences between the two types.



Insulin is the hormone which is directly responsible for regulating blood sugar. Insulin is synthesised in the pancreas, and is released into the blood stream in response to high blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar levels are caused by eating a meal or any amount of simple carbohydrates (such as bread or chocolate). Insulin signals cells (especially ones in muscles and the liver) to absorb the sugar from the blood and convert it into longer term energy stores (primarily glycogen, but also fat), which will be used when blood sugar falls bellow optimal levels. This mechanism is to ensure that the body always has enough energy between meals to keep functioning and avoid energy slumps.


Type I Diabetes

Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease which usually manifests itself early in life. The immune system destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, meaning the body cannot control blood sugar levels and cannot signal cells to store excess sugar in the form of glycogen effectively. As a result of this people suffering from type I diabetes often lose weight, have a greater appetite and have sugar present in their urine. Suffering from type I diabetes often will experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Hypoglycemia has a number of symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, shaking and anxiety, and can lead to loss of conciousness if left to develop. Hyperglycemia can impair the immune system and cause long term damage to organ and tissues, and in severe cases can cause kidney failure.

Type I diabetes is a polygenic disease, meaning there are a number of genes involved.Although it is not solely a genetic, as in some identical twins only one shows signs of being diabetic, whereas the other produces insulin, but in less quantities than normal. This suggests that there are environmental factors which influence the development of type I diabetes, although they have not yet been identified. A number of environmental and dietary factors have been linked, but a cause and effect has yet to be established. These links include a short breast feeding time, insufficient human contact during infancy and consumption of cow’s milk during infancy. Also, research as found that supplementing children with very high levels of vitamin D drastically decreases the chance of the development of type I diabetes, but how this works is yet to be identified.


Type II Diabetes

Type II diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease, which usually manifests itself later in in life. It makes up for the vast majority of diabetes suffers, and the number of people with type II is growing. Type II diabetes is characterised by insulin resistance, this means that your body may not produce enough insulin in response to high blood sugar, or the cells in your liver/ muscles are not responding to the insulin produced. As with type I diabetes, people often suffer from weight loss, increased appetite and have sugar in their urine. They are also prone the onset of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

Although genetic links have been made, it is typically considered to be a lifestyle and environmental disease. There are uncontrollable factors such as increasing age and female gender which increase the risk of type II diabetes, but these are shadowed by the more controllable factors. The primary cause for type II diabetes is obesity, and is followed by poor diet, stress, lack of sleep and little exercise; all of which are prominent in the western world.



Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease and is very difficult to avoid due to its strong genetic association, but fortunately, because it develops early in life, suffers tend to be able to adapt to the lifestyle much easier than type II sufferers. Type I suffers are generally healthy, and have few other ailments. Type II diabetes is in most cases avoidable, due to its strong associations with diet and lifestyle, and suffers often find it difficult to adapt to the lifestyle changes, and often have other health problems such as obesity.

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