Insulin Therapy – Learn How to Avoid Overeating and Starving at the Same Time

Insulin therapy is often an important part of diabetes treatment.  It is the cornerstone of treatment for type 1 diabetes.  Unlike Type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is usually not indicated in Type 2 diabetes because typically these individuals already have too much insulin in their bloodstream.  Insulin therapy is sometimes needed for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes as well, but only for the most severe cases. 

Banting and Best, the doctor and medical student who discovered insulin, won the Nobel Prize in the late 1920’s. They discovered insulin in the pancreatic duct of several dogs, by tying a string around that duct and then isolating the accumulated protein. There is a group of cells called islet cells within the pancreas, which secretes the insulin.

The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach that has many functions in addition to making insulin. There are other hormones produced by different types of cells in the pancreas, i.g. somastotin and glucagon. However, insulin is generally produced in much greater amounts, and that is why the simple Banting and Best’s approach succeeded.

Insulin is a protein, like many hormones. Formerly the successful insulin preparations came from cows and then from pigs. Those insulins were isolated, purified, bottled and sold. They worked and still work very well. But in the 80’s the pharmaceutical technology greatly advanced, leading the scientists to produce human insulin. Human insulin has a much lower chance of producing an adverse reaction from the body, because it is not a foreign protein, considering all humans have the exact same insulin.


Many of our cells cannot access the calories contained in the glucose very well without the action of insulin. That’s what happens when you suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance. The consequence is that you can eat lots of food and actually be in a state of starvation. People with type 1 diabetes, who cannot make insulin at all, and others with type 2 diabetes but cannot make enough insulin, can thus become very ill without insulin shots.

The cells of the body have receptors of insulin which secure the insulin circulating in the blood stream. These receptors attach the insulin to the surface of the cell, activating other receptors which absorb glucose from the blood and pours it inside the cell. People who suffers from a deficiency of insulin must replace it with shots or pumps. That is what happens with people with type 1 diabetes, and sometimes also with type 2 diabetes. However, the latter will overcome this deficiency via other methods of treatment.

Many cells of people with type 2 diabetes respond very scarcely or slowly to the insulin they make themselves, and therefore their cells do not sufficiently absorb the glucose molecules. In most cases, however, type 2 diabetics develop insulin resistance rather than a true insufficient production of insulin.


Sometimes it seems that as soon as a person starts taking insulin, they suffer from diabetes complications. That is why many resist to start undergoing insulin treatment.

The first and most common side effect is low glycemia (blood sugar). That is what happens when you don’t have a routine to eat everyday at the same hours or don’t take your insulin shots or medication regularly. It is advisable to have a glucagon emergency kit handy, considering this situation is not so infrequent.

Other side effect of insulin therapy can include swelling, itching or redness at the site of the injection. To avoid these problems, remember to rotate the sites permanently, and also use the fatty areas of the body for the injection application.

Another important side effect, in the long run, is a tendency to gain weight. When insulin therapy is begun there is most likely some weight gain, especially as metabolic control is gained. Nevertheless, do not decrease your insulin dose, trying to keep the pounds off. This could let your blood sugar rise to a dangerous level, and the consequences being worse than the overweight. On the other hand, neither do increase your insulin dose to feel free to overeat. Excess insulin can cause very undesirable consequences, as neuropathy for example.


You should stick with your insulin therapy as prescribed by your doctor. Even when you do not feel well and eventually when you do not eat your usual diabetes diet. Talk with your doctor about adjusting your insulin when you are sick. Insulin therapy can be an effective and safe way of treating your diabetes when it is taken according to a sound diabetes-care plan.

Diabetes – Does Insulin Make Me Fat?

First we need to understand what insulin does to the body:

After you eat a meal, the food is broken down into glucose, which is the simple sugar that creates the main source of energy for the body’s cells. These cells cannot use glucose without the help of insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps glucose to enter the cells and convert it into energy.

However if the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin that is present, the cells cannot use glucose.( In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas no longer works at all after the first few months of diagnosis. ) If no insulin is produced by the body excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar readings.

Ordinarily a person who does not suffer with diabetes can overeat and their pancreas produces all the necessary insulin required to deal with the extra intake of food. I am a Type 1 diabetic and if I overeat I need to match the insulin I inject to my food intake to prevent high blood sugar readings. Too little insulin and my readings are high, too much insulin and I might have a hypo.If I didn’t inject enough insulin, then not all the food can enter the cells (to store in the liver and muscles, with the excess stored as fat). So a percentage of the glucose from the meal just stays in the blood.

We all worry about weight gain, and since I was diagnosed two years ago, my weight has steadily risen by about 10lbs. Was the insulin making me fat? Directly after diagnosis my regime was two injections a day of NovaMix pre-mixed insulin. But as my blood sugar began to go haywire I went on to four insulin injections a day. (Levemir and Nova Rapid)This was when I started to put on weight.

Research has shown that some diabetics who were controlling their blood sugar with insulin did gain weight. Of course, as we already know, ideal weight, eating a balanced diet and exercising are the keys to controlling diabetes and decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke etc. On the other hand using insulin to control glucose in the blood is essential, even if it means gaining some undesirable weight. It was discovered during this research that the average weight gain of the diabetics they studied was around 10-14 pounds.

Overeating may be the problem

Once a person gets used to controlling their blood sugar with insulin, they may feel that an extra treat of ice-cream or cake is OK and can be easily remedied with a few extra units of insulin. When I looked back through some of my food diaries I could see that I had started to eat slightly larger meals once I was on four injections a day, especially the evening meal. In turn I had increased my insulin dose to match the extra food intake. Maybe it was not so much the insulin that was making me fat, as much as the extra food I was eating purely because I knew that the insulin would take care of controlling blood sugar levels.

It’s a sad fact that if you are overeating and not getting enough exercise then you will gain weight because the diabetes medication is supporting your excess food intake. In other words the insulin itself did not cause weight gain, but all the excess calories did. It does appear that people on insulin might be prone to gain more weight, rather than those on oral medication. Careful diet and exercise, will help in controlling weight.

What should you do to help control the amount of insulin you need every day?

  • Cutting down your calorie intake will be good. I have an acquaintance who is diabetic. She can not control her desire for cakes and pastries. When tackled about it she just says not to worry, as she will inject a few units of insulin to cover it. She probably blames the insulin for making her fat! She already has a huge ulcer on one leg.
  • A brisk walk or an hour in the gym will enable glucose in your blood stream to be used for energy and not stored as fat. A healthy planned diet together with exercise will have a beneficial effect on your insulin levels.
  • Experiment with a Mediterranean type diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, olive oil and whole grains and low in sugar. This is a healthy diet plan for everyone. And eat whole foods which will help to keep insulin levels stable.
  • Do not eat things like biscuits, cakes, candy, potato chips, all white sugar and other refined foods which cause insulin levels to rise much too fast. Never include white flour and processed foods in your diet. These foods will cause massive swings in your insulin levels.
  • If you are overweight to the point of obesity, losing this fat will often bring insulin levels under control.

So, does insulin make you fat? Well we are all different and quite possibly some diabetics do have this problem. Research is ongoing into all aspects of the effects of medication on diabetes. It’s always wise to mention any worries you might have regarding your insulin regime to your diabetic team.

I think the lesson I’ve learned over the last few months, is to keep my appetite in check. Nibble a few nuts and seeds when the carrot cake in the fridge is tempting. I have to be truthful and say that quite probably it wasn’t the fault of the insulin that made me put on weight – it was eating too much food and injecting bigger amounts of insulin to control my soaring blood sugar levels. Calories and more calories, they soon add up to disaster.

Types of Insulin Used to Treat Diabetes

There are different types of insulin using to treat Diabetes. These types of insulin are categorized for rapid action. These types are for short, intermediate and long term.

The brand names of rapid action insulin are Novo Log, Apidra, and Humalog, and their chemical names include insulin aspart, glulisine, and lispro respectively.

Short-term or short acting insulin is Humulin-R as brand name and the chemical name is insulin regular.

You can find intermediate acting insulin, of which the brand name is Humulin and the chemical name is insulin NPH.

The long acting insulin for diabetes can be Levemir, and Lantus as the brand names and the chemical names of these products are insulin detemir and glargine respectively.

The premixed rapid- and intermediate-acting insulin can be 70% intermediate acting (NPH) and 30% short-acting regular insulin, called 70/30 insulin. Similarly, the 50/50 insulin is 50% intermediate acting (NPH) and 50% short-acting regular insulin, the 75/25 insulin is 75% intermediate-acting and 25% rapid-acting Humalog (lispro), the Novo Log or 70/30 pre-mixed insulin is 70% intermediate-acting and 30% rapid-acting Novo Log (insulin aspart,) and this insulin is available.

Insulin is to treat type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. People who are suffering from type 2 diabetes and their pancreas produces little or no insulin or their oral medication does not work properly or does not control blood sugar can take insulin or can take along with oral medication. Due to major surgery and severe illness with high-level blood sugar, type 2 diabetics can stop taking insulin if the blood sugar level returns to the target level.

Women along with type 2 diabetes are pregnant or in breast feeding mode, they cannot keep their blood sugar levels within a target range with diet and exercise; only one oral diabetes medicine, glyburide has been studied and recommended for use during pregnancy. Unless the further research takes place, American Diabetes Association suggests that pregnant women and breast-feeding women do not take oral diabetes medicines.

Insulin is effective to reduce sugar levels. It helps blood sugar (glucose) enter the cells for energy consumption. The 10-year study reveals Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, DCCT and followed up Epidemiology of Diabetic Interventions and Complications, EDIC notice that people with type 1 diabetes can control the blood sugar levels within normal or near the normal range (tightly controlled therapy), and fewer incidence of eye, kidney or nerve damage from diabetes than standard therapy.

Tightly controlled therapy lowered the risks of heart disease and death. Another one study shows that insulin glargine (Lantus), is as effective as NPH insulin does control blood sugar of type 1 diabetics. Lantus can create fewer low blood sugar episodes than NPH2.

Side Effects – The major side effect of insulin can be a dangerously low blood sugar level (severe hypoglycemia). The very low blood sugar level can develop within 10 to 15 minutes with rapid acting insulin. Insulin can contribute to type 2 diabetes for weight gain.