How Does Diabetes Affect Metabolism?

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses glucose, or blood sugar, for energy. When left untreated,…(continue reading)

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses glucose, or blood sugar, for energy.

When left untreated, diabetes can damage the body’s organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

Diabetes can also increase the risk of other health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

On the other hand, your metabolism is the process by which the body converts what you eat and drink into energy or breaks it down to be used for other biological processes.

Due to this relationship, one of diabetes’ many effects is on metabolism.

In this article, we will explore how diabetes affects your metabolism and how treatments can help improve it.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when there is too much sugar in your blood which happens when your body does not make enough insulin or when glucose cannot be used properly.

When you eat something your body turns the food into glucose which then circulates in your blood.

Your body also makes insulin in the pancreas to move the glucose from the blood into cells where it can be used for energy.

When your body stops making insulin or the cells stop using it to take in glucose, your blood glucose levels become too high which can cause damage to your body.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes and all three are considered metabolic diseases. 

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body stops making insulin due to your autoimmune system attacking the insulin-making cells in your pancreas.

Diagnosis of this type of diabetes typically happens as a child or young adult although you can experience it at any age. It is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes.

If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you will have to take insulin therapy either through an injection or insulin pump for the rest of your life. 

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and usually is diagnosed in adults but with an increasing frequency in children.

With type 2 diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or the cells do not use it properly.

You can also develop insulin resistance which means your cells will not take not use the insulin to take in glucose.

This type of diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes.

Many people with type 2 diabetes can manage and even sometimes prevent this form of diabetes through diet and exercise as it is often seen in overweight people; however, some people will also need to take medication and/or insulin therapy to control blood sugar levels. 

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.

This type of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born but women who have had it are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The most common symptoms of diabetes include feeling very thirsty and hungry, while also needing to urinate often.

Other symptoms can include tiredness, unexplained weight loss, wounds taking longer to heal, fatigue, blurred vision, and frequent infections.

diabetes and metabolism
Diabetes and Metabolism

What is metabolism?

Metabolism can be described as all the chemical reactions that occur in your body to maintain life.

It is actually made up of two parts–catabolism and anabolism.

Catabolism breaks down complex molecules into smaller ones while anabolism builds complex molecules from smaller ones.

In general, the metabolic processes either help convert food into energy, convert food into building blocks for other molecules like proteins and lipids, or rid the body of metabolic waste.

What metabolic processes does diabetes affect?

There are two types of metabolic processes that diabetes can directly affect: fat metabolism and protein metabolism.

Let’s discuss how it does this below.

Protein metabolism

Your body doesn’t solely use carbohydrates for energy, as it can also use proteins too.

If no carbohydrates are present, your body will start breaking down your muscle protein, which is a form of catabolism.

This effect has been seen in studies to occur in people who suffer from type 1 diabetes

Fat metabolism

Insulin is used by the body to extract glucose from the blood and convert it into energy. When your body doesn’t have enough insulin, you will automatically start the same process with fat instead.

This process is known as ketosis and creates ketones as a byproduct of it.

Ketones are acidic and when ketone levels are too high it results in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which means your blood is too acidic and can cause serious medical problems if left untreated.

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be affected by this condition although it is more common in type 1 diabetes.

To avoid DKA, you can test your ketones regularly with blood monitors or urine testing kits.

How do different diabetes treatments affect metabolism?

There are two main treatment therapies when it comes to either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and they include the following:

Lifestyle changes

There are three lifestyle factors that are important when you have diabetes and they are diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diets are important to diabetic treatment because what you eat has a direct effect on blood sugar levels.

Foods that have a high glycemic index raise blood sugar levels quickly while low glycemic foods have the opposite effect.

Exercise is also important because it helps your body to use insulin more effectively and can also help lower blood sugar levels.

Obesity can also be a cause of diabetes so it is important to eat properly and exercise to help maintain a healthy weight.

Insulin treatments

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body to control blood sugar levels and people with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin or their bodies can’t use it properly.

Insulin treatments help to replace the insulin that your body is not producing or to use it more effectively to help your body maintain the right blood glucose levels.

It works by telling your body to move the glucose out of your bloodstream where it can be stored as glycogen in different parts of your body. It should be noted that when your body has high insulin levels it can reduce blood glucose to dangerous levels and is called hyperglycemia and when you have too little insulin it spikes your blood sugar and is called hypoglycemia.

Both glucose fluctuations can cause serious medical problems which is why it is important for you to maintain the proper blood glucose levels.

Summary

All forms of diabetes are metabolic disorders that are caused by your body having excess blood sugar levels. Metabolism is all the chemical processes that your body produces to maintain life.

Your metabolic health can be affected by your diabetes through either your protein metabolism or fat metabolism.

Fat metabolism occurs when your body has low amounts of insulin and starts breaking down fat for energy.

This can create ketones, which are acidic, and if levels are too high it results in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Your protein metabolism can be affected by diabetes when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates and begins breaking down your muscle proteins.

There are two main diabetes treatments–lifestyle changes and insulin treatments. Lifestyle changes include diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight which can all have a direct impact on your diabetes and metabolism while also helping with the prevention of diabetes.

Insulin treatments help to replace the insulin production that your body is not producing or to use it more effectively and use metabolic processes to help your body maintain your blood glucose levels in a healthy range.

If you have any more questions we recommend talking to your medical doctor or health care professional.

References and Sources:

NIH

American Diabetes Association

CDC

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Erik Rivera and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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