The Shocking Truth About Beta Cell Dysfunction And Type 2 Diabetes

by Cindy

As most diabetics already know, the pancreas is an endocrine organ that is responsible for the production of insulin.  Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for storing glucose and preventing high blood sugar levels.  When there is not enough insulin present and/or the cells of the body do not recognize insulin, the amount of sugar present in the blood stream rises resulting in diabetes.

What many patients do not know is the extent of damage to the pancreas that is already done at the time that you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  The information may shock you!

What is the Pancreas?

The pancreas is important gland that is located near the small intestine, right below the breastbone.  The pancreas is composed of several different types of cells that produce hormones that are important for the regulation of glucose.  The beta cells are well-known by many because these cells produce the glucose lowering hormone, insulin.  

In type 2 diabetes, these important cells begin to malfunction resulting in hyperglycemia.  Type 2 diabetes is a condition that develops over time and is the result of several factors.  In short, the insulin producing cells of the pancreas begin to lose function resulting in less production of insulin.  The body responds by increasing the amount of insulin that is produced by the remaining cells.  High levels of circulating insulin stress the body and the body begins to become less responsive to the hormone, resulting in a condition known as insulin resistance.  This creates a cycle of rising glucose levels that stimulates overproduction of insulin and eventually tires the pancreas out until more pancreatic cells cease to function. 

Beta Cell Dysfunction & Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a relatively new concept in the world of medicine, only having been described for the past decade or so.  Patients with impaired fasting glucose levels or abnormally high blood sugar that does not meet the diagnostic criteria for type 2 diabetes.  Patients with fasting blood sugar levels that are higher than the normal 99 mg/dl but less than 126 mg/dl fall into the pre-diabetic range.  At this time, the only intervention that is suggested is to change diet and exercise patterns to reduce the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes.  Many patients ignore these recommendations and in time do go on to develop type 2 diabetes because most do not understand the seriousness of this diagnosis. 

What all patients with pre-diabetes need to understand is that patients with impaired fasting glucose levels are showing signs of beta cell dysfunction.  In fact, by the time this dysfunction is significant enough to cause a small rise in your fasting sugar readings you have already lost 50% of your beta cell function

Beta Cell Dysfunction and Type 2 Diabetes

For those that do not heed the warnings of their physician the beta cell function will continue to decline.  What may shock most patients is that patients with abnormal glucose readings that are diagnostic for diabetes have lost 80% of their beta cell function!  This means that your pancreas is functioning at only 20% of its normal capacity, meaning that any little stress by diet or weight gain can have a serious impact on your sugars. 

Remember that your beta cell function cannot be restored.  Once these cells burn out and no longer produce insulin, they will never produce this glucose lowering hormone again.  It is important to maintain a normal weight, exercise and choose a healthy diet to prevent beta cell dysfunction in the first place.  Many patients will wait until they receive a diagnosis of prediabetes to make these changes.  Even more will delay until they are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Either way, if you are making these lifestyle changes at those times it is too late!  A minimum of 50% your beta cell function has been lost and you can never get that back.

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