There are two types of diabetes mellitus (or diabetes), Type 1 and Type 2. The latter is characterized by insulin resistance and is much more common. Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90% of all cases. Both forms of this disease include a dysfunction in the carbohydrate management systems in the body, which can be diagnosed by chronically high levels of blood sugar.
What is blood sugar? You are likely familiar with the fact our bodies rely on sugar for energy. A form of carbohydrate that is ingested through food, our body cells and tissues use glucose as a preferential energy source. Specialized enzymes initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates in our mouth and continues the process throughout our digestive tract. Different forms of sugars, such as glucose and fructose, are taken up by our body and transported to different tissues and organs for further use.
Glucose can either be used immediately as energy for cells, or stored as glycogen for use in the future. It is stored in large amounts in skeletal muscle and in the liver in smaller volumes. As food is digested and the nutrients absorbed, the levels of glucose in your body increase. As a result, the hormone insulin is secreted by the pancreas in an attempt to control the glucose level and return it to basal levels. Insulin acts as a glucose transport activator on your cell membranes to take the circulating glucose into your cells for use or storage.
In the case of Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance causes increased difficulty in activating the glucose transport. Consequently, blood sugar levels will remain elevated for a long period of time, and insulin production and secretion will remain constant. This is the main reason why Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity. Insulin promotes fat storage, and high levels of secretion and elevated levels in the body overtime will lead to increased adiposity. There are several ways to control blood sugar in your body…
- eating a more balanced diet prioritizing complex carbohydrates over simple forms will ensure lower blood sugar levels after meals – and smaller insulin spikes in your blood. Additionally,
- exercise is perhaps the most efficient manner of improving blood sugar control. Exercise is an independent activator of glucose transport in your body and will also function to lower insulin resistance.
An important take away point from the concept of blood sugar is that high levels are not always harmful. It’s actually normal to have high blood sugar levels during exercise – and ideal after a post-workout meal to promote muscular recovery. Rather, chronically high levels of blood sugar that occurs with having Type 2 diabetes, has the potential to be harmful and lead to further complications, when left untreated.