Insulin was discovered in 1921, marking this year as the 100th anniversary.
The Canadian physician who co-discovered insulin, Fredrick Banting and his assistant Charles Best, shared the same birthday, Nov. 14, which led to them selecting the date as World Diabetes Day.
Before insulin, diabetes was a death sentence, as some of the treatments offered may have helped but were not effective. These early treatments offered included narcotics such as opium, eating green vegetables, fasting, carb-free dieting, rancid animal food, exercising, wearing warm clothing, tobacco and other alternatives but were never an effective treatment.
Due to the insulin discovery 100 years ago, diabetes became a treatable disease.
Discovering insulin was only the beginning for help in providing treatment of diabetes. Milestones along the treatment journey include:
1921: Discovery of insulin
1922: First person to receive an injection of insulin to treat diabetes
1936: Sir Harold Percival Himsworth published research that differentiated between type 1 and type 2 diabetes
1955: Oral medication for type 2 diabetes discovered — before 1955, insulin was the only treatment for type 2 diabetes.
1979: First universally accepted classification system distinguishing type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
1980s: The first blood glucose monitors become available for home use providing an accurate way to monitor blood sugar
1986: Insulin pen delivery system instead of vial and syringe
1990s: Invention of external insulin infusion pump, a programmable, battery-powered mechanical syringe/reservoir device that delivers a continuous insulin infusion
1999: The first continuous glucose monitor
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the treatment of diabetes continues to evolve. There are 30.3 million people who have diabetes (9.4% of the U.S. population) in one type or another. So what is the difference between the two types?
Type 1 diabetes (which used to be called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes), the body completely stops making insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections or use an insulin pump. This form of diabetes usually develops in children or young adults but can occur at any age.
Type 1 diabetes currently cannot be prevented. Still, it can certainly be managed by following your provider’s recommendations for living a healthy lifestyle, managing your blood sugar, regular checkups and diabetes self-management education & support.
Type 2 diabetes (which used to be called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent) the body produces insulin, but the cells don’t respond to insulin the way they should. This is called insulin resistance. In response to this insulin resistance, the pancreas should make more insulin, but this does not happen in the case of type 2 diabetes. Because of these two problems, insulin resistance and trouble making extra insulin, there is not enough of an insulin effect to move the glucose from the blood into the cells.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed for individuals by making healthy lifestyle choices. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include age, family history, race & ethnicity, overweight, inactivity, fat distribution (storing fat in your abdomen), prediabetes, gestational diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome. Although not all risk factors can be avoided like age, race or family history an impact can be made to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes through achievable lifestyle changes that focus on impacting our weight and activities.
Top 4 Tips for a Healthy LifestyleEat healthy foods. Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, non-starchy vegetables and whole grains.
Get active. Exercise 150 minutes of vigorous a week, including brisk walking, bicycling, running, swimming, or vigorous aerobic activity.
Lose some weight. Weight Loss of even 5-7% can help decrease the progression from prediabetes to diabetes or show beneficial outcomes with reducing blood sugar if you already have diabetes.
Get up! Sitting still for long periods can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. When your Apple Watch or Fitbit tells you it’s time to move — it does this for a reason. Research has shown sitting all day can undo the benefits of the bouts of exercise that you do.
While there have been so many advances in the treatment of diabetes since 1921, there is still so much to learn. New medications continue to be discovered, but what remains constant is that having a healthy lifestyle and participating in diabetes self-management and support education will continue to help manage your diabetes.
Jenny Young, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator providing medical nutrition therapy and diabetes self-management education at the Owensboro Health Healthpark.