The direct cause of type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune response that causes the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas by the body’s immune system. Beta cells produce insulin, which allows the cells throughout the body to utilize glucose from the bloodstream. When beta cells are attacked and destroyed, the pancreas no longer provides enough insulin to meet the body’s demands, and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. The result is high blood glucose.
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But the question remains, what causes the immune system to attack and destroy beta cells in the first place? While there are certain risk factors, or factors that increase the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes, the exact mechanisms that cause the immune system to attack beta cells are still being studied. These risk factors include family history, nutrition, and environmental factors. There is also ongoing research suggesting that the immune system can target insulin itself.