What Role Does Insulin Play In Immunity
Insulin helps regulate our blood sugar levels, and people whose bodies do not make enough insulin or are resistant to it are exposed to diabetes and obesity. Does insulin also play a role in how our bodies mount immune responses?
Recently, specialists from the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute in Canada have investigated the impact of insulin on the immune system.
How did they come to realize that insulin played any role in immunity at all?
Dr. Sue Tsai and team saw that people with type 2 diabetes, or with obesity that places them at risk of diabetes, have much poorer immune responses to infections and pathogens compared with healthy people.
A quick and effective immune response is vital to how efficiently the body can destroy viruses and fight infections, so it is important to understand which factors contribute to a weakened immune system.
Previous research from the TGHRI revealed that a type of immune cell called T cells found in abdominal fat induce pro-inflammatory responses, which negatively affects the bodys responsiveness to insulin.
This suggests the existence of an important link between chronic inflammation, poor immune responses, and insulin resistance.
Such findings motivated the scientists to delve deeper into the possible interactions between insulin and T cells, and why these immune cells might stop responding to the hormone.
Your Immune System And Hba1c
Neutrophils are cells that make up your immune system and help protect the body from infection, they do this by ingesting harmful particles or bacteria that have entered the body.
It has been found that when your blood sugars are persistently high, known as being in a hyperglycemic state, the activity of these neutrophils is reduced or defective , meaning that their job of protecting your body is delayed or inhibited. Overall, this can lead to infection and also increase severity of infections.
Hyperglycemia has also been shown to alter the inflammatory responses to infection and tissue damage . Inflammatory responses again work to fight off and reduce infection, therefore through these hampered responses, it means your body is less likely to be able to fight off infection.
These chain reactions to high blood glucose levels show the importance of gaining and keeping control of your HbA1c in order to support your immune system.
Effects Of T2dm On The Susceptibility Of Patients To Infections
T2DM is usually associated with an elevated risk of asymptomatic bacteriuria, urinary tract infections , pyelonephritis and non-sexually transmitted genital infections, such as balanitis and vulvovaginal infections . The incidence of infections with a complicated course is significantly higher in diabetic patients compared to healthy controls . It seems that it is principally defects in the innate immune responses of diabetic individuals that are responsible for the increased susceptibility and prevalence of infections .
Table 3. Dysfunctional immune system in T2DM patients promotes the pathogenesis of infections.
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What The Research Says
Early research suggests that the two types of diabetes may have more in common than previously believed. In the last decade, researchers have tested the idea that type 2 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, similar to type 1 diabetes.
Researchers have found evidence that insulin resistance may be the result of immune system cells attacking the bodys tissues. These cells are designed to produce the antibodies that fight invading bacteria, germs, and viruses.
In people with type 2 diabetes, these cells may mistakenly attack healthy tissue.
If type 2 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, the discovery may have big implications on our understanding of obesity. Itll also affect the way obesity-induced type 2 diabetes is treated.
Doctors currently treat type 2 diabetes with two traditional approaches.
The first focuses on a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet and frequent exercise are the pillars of this treatment.
Doctors then typically prescribe oral medications that work in different ways to increase your bodys ability to use insulin, to make less glucose, and to perform other actions.
If medications dont work, you may need to use insulin. Injections of insulin can help your cells absorb glucose and generate energy.
Some people with diabetes may be able to postpone insulin injections with healthy lifestyle changes and medications. Others may need them right away.
Excess Blood Sugar Disrupts Immune System Proteins And Promotes Atherosclerosis
Heart rate graph using sugar on red background. Credit: Shutterstock
Excess sugar in the blood, the central feature of diabetes, can react with immune proteins to cause myriad changes in the immune system, including inflammatory changes that promote atherosclerosis, according to a new study from scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine and University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The study, published March 15 in the journal Immunity, advances the field of diabetes research by revealing molecular pathways through which the disorder may cause other serious health problems for patients. In principle, these newly revealed pathways could be targeted with future diabetes drugs.
Our findings showing how hyperglycemia can contribute to atherosclerosis by altering the adaptive immune response should have broad clinical implications, said co-senior author Dr. Laura Santambrogio, professor of radiation oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The American Diabetes Association has estimated that in 2018, more than 34 million people in the United States had either type 1 diabetes or the more common, adult-onset and obesity-related type 2 diabetes. In both conditions, the body loses its normal ability to keep bloodstream levels of glucose within safe limits, resulting in chronically high glucose levelshyperglycemia.
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To Boost Vitamin C A Nutrient That Supports Immunity Snack On Bell Pepper Slices
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, it has never been more important to focus on immune system strength, especially when you have a condition like type 2 diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that people with underlying conditions, including diabetes, may be at a higher risk for serious health problems if infected by the novel coronavirus. Time to make your health a top priority andarmor up.
In addition to well-studied immune boosters like adequate sleep, consistent exercise, and stress-relieving strategies, supercharge your immune system by adding nutrient-rich, low-carbohydrate foods to your plate that will also keep your A1C on target.
The American Diabetes Association emphasizes that carb counting can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar, especially when injectable insulin is being used. Everyones carb goals are different it ultimately depends on your weight, age, activity level, and whether you are taking any medication. On average, though, the CDC advises that people with diabetes get about 45 percent of their calories from carbs, and that most women need about 45 to 60 grams per meal, while most men need about 60 to 75 g per meal.
Because everyones nutrition and carb needs can be different, talk with your healthcare team about the right eating approach for you. Then fill your plate accordingly with any of the following diabetes-friendly and disease-fighting foods.
Insulin Resistance And Hyperglycemia
Increased blood glucose levels after eating induce insulin production and secretion by islet cells into the blood. The binding of insulin and insulin receptors in cell membranes induces glucose transporter translocation to the cell membrane and increases glucose uptake by the cells, resulting in decreased glucose levels in the blood. Failure of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin, improper insulin action, or both, results in hyperglycemia. This is associated with damage and failure of various organs and tissues in the long term.
Elevated levels of tumor necrosis factor – in adipose tissue of obese mice were shown to be associated with insulin resistance in those mice . Furthermore, interleukin -6, C-reactive protein, plasminogen activator inhibitor, and other inflammation mediators were elevated in the plasma of obese mice . TNF-, free fatty acids, diacylglyceride, ceramide, reactive oxygen species , hypoxia activate I kinase , and c-Jun N-terminal kinase I in adipose tissue and the liver induce insulin receptor substrate inhibition . Moreover, TNF- also leads to insulin resistance via inhibition of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma function .
Molecular mechanism of insulin resistance due to inflammation .
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What Infections Are You At Risk For With Diabetes
People with diabetes are more susceptible to developing infections, as high blood sugar levels can weaken the patient’s immune system defenses. In addition, some diabetes-related health issues, such as nerve damage and reduced blood flow to the extremities, increase the body’s vulnerability to infection.
Get A Proper Diagnosis And Treatment
Many of these health conditions can be linked directly to unchecked, undiagnosed and untreated adult-onset diabetes. Once a proper diagnosis has been made, the effects of high blood sugar on the body tend to diminish noticeably. Prescription diabetes medications help remove excess sugar from the bloodstream and reduce stress on the pancreas and kidneys. Simply being treated for diabetes can improve your immune system naturally.
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How Does Sugar Affect Your Immune System
Besides being a driver behind other chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, sugar consumption affects your body’s ability to fight off viruses or other infections in the body. You know how your body needs certain cells to fight off infections? White blood cells, also known as “killer cells,” are highly affected by sugar consumption. Like Dr. Roizen mentions, sugar hinders the immune system since, according to a study done on fruit flies, the white blood cells are not able to do their job and destroy bad bacteria or viruses as well as when someone does not eat sugar.
How Much Sugar Does It Take To Weaken Your Immune Response
This nutrition study shows that it takes about 75 grams of sugar to weaken the immune system. And once the white blood cells are affected, it’s thought that the immune system is lowered for about 5 hours after. This means that even someone who slept 8 hours, takes supplements and exercises can seriously damage their immune system function by drinking a few sodas or having candy or sugary desserts throughout the day.
That study above was published in the 1970s, but another study from 2011 expanded on the previous research and found that sugar, especially fructose negatively affected the immune response to viruses and bacteria.
Just to give you context of how 75 grams of sugar can add up:
- One can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar
- A low-fat, sweetened yogurt can have 47 grams of sugar
- A cupcake has about 46 grams of sugar
- Sports drinks can contain about 35 grams of sugar
Health authorities say to limit sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons a day.
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Carrots Are Packed With Vitamin A And Low On The Glycemic Index
Vitamin A can help support the immune system through a variety of cellular processes, and one top source is carrots, says Cara Schrager, MPH, RDN, a certified diabetes care and education specialist and the clinical programs manager at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
“Carrots contain beta-carotene, which is a major source of vitamin A,” she says, so much so that the common garden vegetable actually gave the phytonutrient its name. Furthermore, Schrager says, they contain a low glycemic load, meaning they are unlikely to cause a blood sugar spike.
They’re helpful for eye health, an important consideration for those with diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases .
Over time, diabetes can cause eye damage that leads to poor vision and puts you at higher risk for issues like cataracts and glaucoma. Research published in Nutrients has found that the beta-carotene in carrots, along with lutein, provides antioxidants that can help prevent eye damage.
How to enjoy them Schrader suggests grating carrots into tomato sauce or ground meat, or snacking on baby carrots. According to the USDA, about of a cup offers 586 micrograms of vitamin A, or about 65 percent of the DV.
Watch Your Portions And Count Your Carbohydrates
In addition to getting the right foods and nutrients, to boost your immune response, you should watch your portion sizes and count your carbohydrates when you have diabetes.
A variety of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors will ensure plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals. You want to avoid foods that tend to raise your blood sugar and eat those that tend to keep blood sugars steady that are high in fiber.
Gaining weight tends to increase our risk of inflammation in tissues, which is responsible for a decreased immune response as well. Therefore, sticking with the plate method and eating the right sized portions can help to control weight and related inflammation causing a decreased immune response.
Dont skip your meals and test your blood sugars as often as your doctor tells you to. Snack on healthy, high fiber, whole grain and proteins. If you are trying to lose weight, you can count calories. There are many apps available that can help you count your calories, such as MyFitnessPal.
Measuring your foods may be helpful also when you are counting calories. See a Registered Dietician or Certified Diabetes Educator if you want to count calories and are unsure how to go about it.
Avoid processed foods such as cakes, pies and cookies whenever possible. Plan to drink mainly water and an occasional unsweetened beverage. Getting plenty of fluids can also help immune responses.
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What Can Be Done To Avoid Infections
One of the most important things that you can do to avoid infections is to practice careful foot care. In addition to wearing shoes and socks to avoid minor bumps and scrapes, your feet should be examined daily for any blisters, cuts, scrapes, sores or other skin problems that could allow an infection to develop. Meticulous foot and skin care is needed to ensure that minor cuts and scrapes do not turn into ulcerated infections that can migrate into the bloodstream and cause major problems.
Good urinary hygiene, especially for women, can help minimize the possibility of developing urinary tract infections. This includes proper toilet hygiene, prompt urination after sexual intercourse, regular emptying of the bladder, and ample fluid intake.
Yeast infections can often be avoided by good vaginal care. This may include the avoidance of spermicides and douches. Eating foods with active cultures, such as yogurt containing Acidophilus, can be helpful for preventing yeast infections.
How Does Insulin Medication Affect Metabolism
Insulin medication stimulates the muscle, liver, and fat cells to absorb and store glucose as glycogen. When this happens, a persons blood glucose levels reduce.
In people with diabetes, the aim is to achieve a balance of insulin and blood glucose. This means that a person has enough energy ready to use but not so much that they risk long-term health complications.
Using too much insulin can reduce blood glucose to dangerous levels, causing hypoglycemia. Not using enough causes hyperglycemia.
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What Happens When A Person With Prediabetes Get A Viral Infection New Study Provides In
As the number of individuals with Type 2 diabetes in the United States continues to climb, researchers at Stanford Medicine are investigating the connection between a condition known as prediabetes — an early indicator of diabetes that involves higher-than-normal blood sugar levels — and immune and microbiome health.
“Exactly how a person’s biology shifts under prediabetic and diabetic conditions is still unclear,” said Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics.
A new study now provides a glimpse into the immune and microbial states of individuals who are healthy or prediabetic, looking at how their health changes during a viral infection.
For nearly four years, Snyder and a team of scientists have closely tracked a variety of factors in a group of 106 people — including both healthy individuals as well as those who exhibit signs of prediabetes through “insulin resistance.”
The researchers followed the participants’ insulin levels, levels of immune molecules, microbial populations and more.
“We followed the biology of these individuals over time to see if and how they change, especially if they caught a cold. In that vein, this study also focused on understanding how folks with prediabetes fight off a viral infection relative to healthy people,” said Snyder. “That’s never really been explored before.”
That is, unless they got a viral infection.
The study also answers a call for a different, more basic need, said Zhou.
Prospect Of A Reliable Vaccine
The worldwide economy, culture, transport, sport, interpersonal relationships, education and each individual’s lifestyle have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic . However, the lethality of this virus is much lower than found in previous pandemics. What makes COVID-19 so significant and dangerous, is the rapid acceleration of the virus transmission. Despite all efforts to control and treat this disease, public quarantine and lockdown measures cannot be implemented forever, and all tested treatment methods have not been sufficiently effective. Therefore, along with trying to find more effective specific drugs, the effort to find a vaccine should be redoubled in order to gain herd immunity and allow the world to return to normal life and resume its routine. Because the process of vaccine preparation and testing is complicated and lengthy, validating and marketing vaccines can be tedious, but given the body of work by various research groups, there is a clear prospect of achieving this goal sooner rather than later .
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