Glucose Management & Diabetes


Glucose Management & Diabetes

After eating, blood glucose levels rise and this triggers the pancreas to release insulin into the blood. Insulin is the signal for the body to absorb glucose from the blood. Most cells just use the glucose to supply them with energy but the glucose can also be stored. When levels of glucose (and consequently insulin) are high in the blood, the liver responds to the insulin by absorbing glucose and storing it by packaging the sugar into bundles called glycogen. These glucose granules fill up liver cells, so the liver is like a warehouse for excess glucose.

Individuals with type 2 diabetes are less able to manage their glucose levels. Obesity alone increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. However with certain genetic variations, your risk for type 2 diabetes is significantly increased. Diabetes can be effectively managed when detected early. However, when left untreated, it can lead to serious problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and nerve damage.  

What is the TCF7L2 gene?

The TCF7L2 gene encodes a protein that plays a key role in the signalling pathway. This signalling pathway regulates the production of proglucagon. Proglucagon produces GLP-1 which regulates glucose levels in the blood.

What is the effect of genetic variation in the TCF7L2 gene?

The presence of an allele at the TCF7L2 gene considerably increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing the production of GLP-1 (a hormone that reduces levels of glucose in the blood), resulting in higher glucose levels and therefore a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Individuals with an allele also have an impaired insulin response to oral glucose. Specifically, they have 20% lower insulin secretion. This also leads to high levels of glucose in the blood.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar, or glucose and lead to high levels of glucose in the blood.

Individuals with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin at all. They are born with it and it is not linked with age or being overweight.

Individuals  with type 2 diabetes are able to produce insulin, but their body doesn’t respond to the insulin produced and so glucose levels remain high - this is also known as insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is linked with age and being overweight.

What does insulin do?

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).

Insulin helps control blood glucose levels by signalling the liver, muscle and fat cells to take in glucose from the blood. Insulin therefore helps cells to take in glucose to be used for energy. If the body has sufficient energy, insulin signals the liver to take up glucose and store it as glycogen.

What is the cause of diabetes?

In individuals with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders. The immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. After these beta cells are destroyed, the body is unable to produce insulin.

Individuals with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. Their body still produces insulin, but it’s unable to use it effectively. Researchers aren’t sure why some people become insulin resistant and others don’t, but several lifestyle factors may contribute, including excess weight and inactivity. When you develop type 2 diabetes, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more insulin. Because your body is unable to effectively use insulin, glucose will accumulate in your bloodstream.

What is the prevalence of diabetes?

According to the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report, there are 4 million people in the UK with diabetes. That’s close to 1 in 10 people. This figure is projected to increase over the next decade due to the surge of obesity. Type 2 diabetes is much more common that type 1, accounting for 90% of all diabetes.

Backed by Science

Our in-house scientists have sorted through thousands of studies and we only use genes that are backed by a significant body of peer-reviewed research. Check out Nell’s Science Standard for more information.