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October 28, 2002

Insulin

Question from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada:

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 26 and my weight was good (a little under normal for me, but I was happy). However, since I began treatment, I have packed on over 20 pounds, and all I hear from my doctor is that this weight gain is normal. I quit smoking almost two years ago, I am careful with what I eat, and I play hockey twice a week in addition to running (way more active than before), but still continue to struggle with my weight and find it difficult to obtain good readings. I am very depressed over this. I was recently chatting with a lady who has diabetes, and she said that when she switched from pork insulin to synthetic, she packed on weight (as I did), lost her memory (as I have), and got very moody with everyone (as I am with my kids). She switched to pork again, and all is well. Could this be a option for me as well?

Answer:

Just switching to pure pork insulin does not sound like the answer for you. I do not believe that the synthetic human insulins have all those overwhelmingly poor side effects. However, tight control in clinical trials has been associated with a weight gain of over ten pounds.

I would ask several questions of you. First, how many injections are you taking each day? It is easier to give small timely doses of insulin several times per day, compared to two shots per day. In such a case, you are surely giving more insulin than you need. Second, are you having a lot of hypoglycemia? Having to eat to maintain your blood sugar surely allows for more weight gain. Third, do you utilize some form of food counting? This could be carbohydrate counting, exchanges, or servings from the Food Guide Pyramid. This will allow you to keep track of the food you eat without having to use some fancy computer program. If you are not aware of the above issues, I would suggest you speak with your physician or diabetes care team.

JTL

[Editor’s comment: I am unaware of any scientific information that would support a theory that the source of the insulin (synthetic human vs. pork) would make any difference in weight or mood or memory.

WWQ]