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Type 1 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes


Lt Col Reynolds
Many people have probably heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but may not know what the difference is between the two. There’s also a condition called metabolic syndrome, often referred to as prediabetes. Major Spencer, can you shed some light on the differences between these conditions?

Maj Spencer
Sure thing, Dr. Reynolds. When a person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it means that their pancreas isn’t able to make a hormone called insulin because their body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed the cells that produce insulin. Insulin helps the cells in your body absorb glucose, or sugar, from your bloodstream. Without insulin, the glucose stays in your blood, which can lead to serious health problems.

Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in children and young adults, and for that reason, you may hear it referred to as juvenile diabetes. It is possible, however, to develop type 1 diabetes at any age. Type 1 diabetes is far less common than type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, which means the body’s cells aren’t using the insulin produced by the pancreas to effectively absorb glucose from the blood. The pancreas reacts by producing more insulin to meet the body’s demand, but eventually the pancreas can’t keep up and doesn’t produce enough insulin. The result is blood glucose that remains too high. Because type 2 diabetes is more common among middle-aged and older populations, it’s sometimes referred to as adult-onset diabetes. However, people of any age, including children, can be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Prior to developing type 2 diabetes, many people are diagnosed with a condition called metabolic syndrome. While the exact definition and causes of metabolic syndrome are still a subject of debate in the medical community, it’s generally agreed that a person has metabolic syndrome if they have at least three of five conditions that increase their risk for diabetes and heart disease. This group of conditions includes:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood glucose levels
  • High levels of triglycerides
  • Low levels of HDL, sometimes called the good cholesterol, and
  • Too much fat around the waist

Sometimes, the term metabolic syndrome is used interchangeably with the term prediabetes, but the truth is, prediabetes is only a single aspect of metabolic syndrome. Prediabetes simply means that your blood glucose is higher than it should be, but not high enough to diagnose type 2 diabetes. It is possible to reverse prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes through weight loss and increased physical activity.