A disease as common as misunderstood. We explain all its characteristics.
About 430 million people around the world suffer from the metabolic disorder diabetes or diabetes mellitus, dying each year about 2 million people due to problems derived from diabetes. It is already the sixth cause of death in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is therefore a new pandemic for humanity, since the numbers of people who suffer from it do not stop growing year after year and it is expected to continue that way. It should be borne in mind that in 1980 there were 108 million people suffering from it, while the International Diabetes Federation estimates that there would be 629 million in 2045.
What is the diabetes?
To understand what diabetes is, it is very useful to have a good image of certain general metabolic mechanisms, and we will quickly understand why insulin and glucose monitoring are so important for people who are affected by this pathology.
Catabolism of carbohydrates
We all know that it is from the food we eat that our body can get the energy it needs to function. In the process of digestion, food is transformed into simpler substances for later absorption. And among these substances that are digested it is important to highlight the carbohydrates to interpret the disease of diabetes.
The digestion of carbohydrates is a type of catabolism, and it is not about anything other than dividing them into smaller units or monosaccharides (catabolism). Monosaccharides are also called simple sugars or popularly simply «sugar.» Among them are glucose, fructose, galactose, etc., and the most widespread function of these is to serve as cellular fuel.
Glucose, the body’s energy currency par excellence
Oxidation of glucose in pyruvic acid (glycolysis) is one of the oldest metabolic routes for energy, since it is present at all evolutionary levels (from bacteria to mammals). And it is due to this metabolic process that glucose is the monosaccharide that plays the most relevant role in the disease of diabetes.
Insulin, the most important hormone
When the body detects that glucose is reaching the blood, the pancreas produces and releases insulin. This is the hormone responsible for lowering the concentration of glucose in the blood, which can increase long after an intake.
Insulin reduces the presence of sugar in the blood by storing it in other tissues or allowing it to be used in the muscle for energy.
The process of glucose storage starts in the cells of the liver, muscles or adipose tissue, where a signal (transduction) is initiated. This allows the increase of the uptake of glucose for its storage in the form of glycogen, that is, packaging again the monosaccharide in a larger molecule for storage. You can also activate another alternative metabolic pathway to convert sugars into fats.
These are the health problems and most common affectations among people suffering from diabetes.
1. Affectation of carbohydrate metabolism in diabetics
Diabetes is a metabolic disease linked to a dysfunction in the production or use of insulin. This affects the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, although we are going to focus on the first one, since it is the one that has the most impact.
The main problem that insulin can not perform its functions properly comes when glucose can not reach its target cells to be stored or used for energy, remaining in the bloodstream. The high concentration of glucose in the blood or hyperglycemia is the situation that the diabetic has to avoid at all costs.
We know that blood must provide different nutrients to the cells throughout the body in the most constant way possible (cholesterol, triglycerides, electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, etc.). There are many mechanisms to regulate them.
In the case of glucose, as we have said, insulin is used to store glucose when the concentrations are high. But when insulin can not perform its function, high sugar levels are harmful to the tissues of our body. Obviously, this is prepared to deal with these and many other problematic situations, but when the situation is especially acute or becomes chronic if the toxicity is already a serious problem.
2. Main homeostatic problems of the diabetic
The body does what it can in the face of loss of stability in blood glucose concentration, also called glycemic homeostasis. For example, try to expel such excess sugar from the blood through the urine, so that the affected person feels a desire to urinate frequently.
There are many other prominent problems of a progressive nature in different organs: deterioration of renal function, loss of vision, affecting the quality of blood vessels, poor intestinal irrigation or complications in coronary heart disease, heart attacks and cardiovascular accidents.
It should be noted that the complications of the disease are multiple and as we said at the beginning also affect the metabolism of lipids, proteins, mineral salts and electrolytes.
Types of diabetes
Diabetes is generally divided into two subtypes: in type 1 diabetes, the body simply produces too little or no insulin, whereas in type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to produce enough insulin or fails to use insulin. what it produces This is known as insulin-resistance.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood and affects approximately 10% of cases. Those affected need to inject insulin daily or use an insulin pump to control the disease.
Type 2 diabetes affects 90% of cases and is related to a progressive deterioration of the patient’s regulatory systems, and aids in the form of medication help prevent potentially lethal complications.
There is also gestational diabetes that pregnant women suffer during the second or third trimester of pregnancy, although after delivery it ends up disappearing.
How to fight the disease
In addition to medication, ** you can treat the disease and avoid or delay its appearance with a healthy lifestyle **.
A good diet away from processed products (especially refined carbohydrates), with the consequent maintenance of body weight, and regular physical activity and avoidance of tobacco consumption is the best way to avoid and treat the onset of type 2 diabetes.