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Understanding Diabetes

Humaira Marzia Alam
Freshman
School of Life Sciences
Independent University, Bangladesh

August 3rd, 2017

Desserts are something we never decline to consume. The mouthwateringly sweet desserts we know and love are largely composed of sugar. While sugar is everywhere, including in naturally occurring fruits, and, is an important part of our metabolism, it also has huge negative impact on our health if the levels in our diet and blood are not controlled. Indeed, sugar intake is one of the culprits linked to the worldwide spike in diabetes.  

Diabetes, more formally known as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (the simple sugar that all sugars and carbohydrates are mostly broken down to). Patients with high blood glucose will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), and will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia). Other common diabetes symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, impaired wound healing, male sexual dysfunction, numbness and tingling in hands and feet. Glucose levels in our blood are normally controlled by hormones, which include insulin. When blood glucose levels are high, insulin is secreted from the pancreas. Insulin binds to insulin receptors on the surfaces of certain cells (like fat and muscle cells), which induces glucose uptake from the blood by those cells. During diabetes, this system fails.

Diabetes can be divided into three main types, type-1, type-2, and gestational diabetes. Type-1 diabetes, which constitutes up to 10% of cases, is genetic and is caused by failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. Up to 90% of cases are from type-2, which is associated with the desensitization of insulin receptors (a phenomenon known as insulin resistance), and subsequent impairment of insulin production as well. Beside these two types, gestational diabetes can develop in women during pregnancy, which generally goes away after delivery. Women with high animal fat and cholesterol content in their diets are most likely to suffer from gestational diabetes. 

At present, it is possible to determine whether a person has normal metabolism, prediabetes or diabetes. To find out, three tests are mainly conducted, which are the A1C (glycated hemoglobin), FPG (fasting plasma glucose), and OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test). All of these tests observe the glucose concentration in blood. The A1C test focuses on glucose that is bound hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells, which survive in the body for around three months. Therefore, the test gives a measure of the average blood glucose for the past three months. A normal person is said to have below 5.6 percent (of total hemoglobin) A1C level, while pre-diabetic individuals have between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, and diabetic individuals have 6.5 percent and above. The fasting plasma glucose test measures glucose in blood plasma after fasting for at least 8 hours but not more than 16 hours until the collection of the test sample. In the oral glucose tolerance test, basically done right after the FPG, the patient receives a dose of glucose on an empty stomach, and blood samples are then taken up to four times at different time points after consumption of sugar to measure the blood glucose level. Like with the A1C test, there are established ranges for normal, prediabetic, and diabetic individuals for 

All types of diabetes can be treated. Type -1 diabetes can be handled with insulin injection, special diet and exercise. Tablets that improve insulin sensitivity, exercise, special diets and sometimes insulin injections deal with type-2 diabetes. There is no permanent cure for type-1 diabetes, but an organized lifestyle might work for some people to get rid of the symptoms of type-2 diabetes. Gastric bypass surgeries constitute another possible way of treating type-2 diabetes, which is often attributable to excessive body fat. In this medical treatment, the stomach is divided into a small upper pouch and a much larger “remnant” pouch and then the small intestine is rearranged to connect both. The idea is to have a smaller receiving area of stomach so that the person feels full with less food. Gastric bypass surgery reverses type-2 diabetes of obese patients in many cases, but the disease recurs in about 21 percent of them within three to five years. 

The estimated total number of people living with diabetes globally is 366 million (as of 2011), and is likely rise to 552 million within the next two decades. Annually, there are 78,000 new cases of childhood diabetes (type-1). While diabetes is common throughout the world, studies have reported that almost 80% people worldwide with diabetes are from developing nations, thus adding to several other health challenges faced by these countries. Going back to our introduction, it is important to realize that sugar is not the only risk factor for diabetes. Type-1 is largely genetic, and type-2 is thought to be caused by an unhealthy diet (which often includes excess sugar) and lack of exercise, which result in high body fat content and often obesity. Having diabetes often necessitates making long-term lifestyle changes but it is not the end. Many people lead successful, fulfilling lives with diabetes. Diabetes is a very common and potentially deadly disease but with care and maintenance it can also be handled very well.



I just want to get lost in my own world where I will live my life riding a bicycle and with undying enthusiasm that I have for life science. I wish to create the best in myself as a biochemist. Besides my passion in biochemistry I like writing, reading and sports!

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