The medical name is diabetes mellitus
WHAT IS DIABETES?
It's not an illness you can catch like a cold or cure like an infection. Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose (a type of sugar). We need glucose for the energy for everyday activities. In diabetes glucose builds up in the bloodstream causing the amount of blood glucose (sometimes called blood sugar) to rise too high. High blood glucose causes damage to blood vessels over time so it is important that the amount of blood glucose in the body is kept as close to a normal level as possible.
The food we eat
The body turns the food we eat into fuel for our bodies allowing us to live. The main nutrients we get the fuel from are carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Starches (complex carbohydrates) and sugars (simple carbohydrates), are types of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates come from foods such as bread, rice, cereals, pasta, fruit, potato, kumara, taro, sugar, honey.
Carbohydrates are turned into glucose in the stomach and intestines. Glucose passes into the blood stream and is taken around the body as the vital energy that supports the brain, nervous system, heart and kidneys.
- Our body cells use the glucose for energy like cars use petrol.
- Glucose is stored in the liver and muscles to give our body energy for use when we are not eating. Since glucose is carried to each cell through the bloodstream, it is often called blood glucose.
Using the energy from food
The metabolism of people with diabetes is almost identical to the metabolism of people without diabetes. The only difference is the amount and/or effectiveness of the insulin produced by the body.
- Insulin is a hormone that controls the level of glucose in our blood. An organ in the body called the pancreas produces it. Insulin enables the glucose to be moved from the blood stream into the body’s cells where it is used as energy to help the body to work effectively.
- When insulin levels are either low or not working properly, the cells run out of energy and the body uses fat and protein as alternative sources of energy, which can be harmful.
For people with diabetes the body either does not make insulin, does not produce enough insulin or does not store and release enough insulin. Glucose then builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed and used by the cells.
Blood glucose / blood sugar
Diabetes New Zealand links
Click here to go to Diabetes NZ home page
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Click here to go to Diabetes NZ printable pamphlets page
Click here to download the Diabetes NZ information booklet order form