Type 2 diabetes, sometimes referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. It’s caused by a combination of factors, but usually begins with insulin resistance. Insulin comes from the pancreas and acts as a key to let blood glucose into the cells where it is converted to energy. In normal body function, the pancreas produces enough insulin to handle the blood glucose generated by the food you eat. When someone has insulin resistance, however, the cells do not respond to the insulin as well and blood glucose cannot enter the cells as easily to produce energy. Because of this, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream.
In the early stages of the disease, the pancreas responds by making more insulin than normal in an attempt to overcome insulin resistance. Eventually, the body cannot produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance and that is when type 2 diabetes develops. The longer you have diabetes, the more difficult it is for your body to overcome this insulin resistance.
Whatever the reason for elevated blood glucose levels, the secret to keeping the beta cells in your pancreas producing insulin normally for a longer time is to reduce the insulin resistance with lifestyle interventions, such as weight loss, healthy eating and regular physical activity, and by keeping your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
While type 2 diabetes may often be managed with lifestyle interventions or oral medications, insulin is sometimes required.
More information on research that Joslin is doing on type 2 diabetes can be found here.