The characteristics of adult or maturity-onset diabetes are rather different from the juvenile form. The overwhelming majority of diabetics—about 70 percent—are adults who don’t acquire the disease until they’ve passed the age of 35. Nearly all of them are overweight when the disease strikes.
This form of diabetes generally results from a relative instead of an absolute deficiency of insulin like in juvenile diabetes. The maturity-onset diabetic need not have a gross lack of insulin. They might even have an ordinarily normal insulin supply. But, since something impedes the action of insulin supply, they get less insulin activity than they need for suitable carbohydrate metabolism.
Adult diabetes could be mild, moderate, or severe, based on the quantity of insulin required to keep it in check. About half of the cases are relegated as mild and don’t require insulin injections. These can generally be treated with rather mild dietary limitations.
There are some overweight diabetics whose insulin production is normal but who overeat to the level where they take in more carbohydrate than their insulin supply can match. In numerous such cases, a coming back to normal weight is adequate to correct the relative deficiency of insulin and liberate the patient from the symptoms of diabetes.
About half of the adult diabetics could be of normal weight. They don’t overeat to any great extent but they do, somehow, have something amiss with the way their insulin works.
If there’s a ten percent impairment of insulin function, this can be matched by a ten percent decrease in dietary carbohydrate. But if the drop in insulin efficiency is more than ten percent, further food reduction would result in underweight, loss of strength and a decline in working capacity. Thus insulin injections or Orinase, or other new drugs which can be taken orally, are required.
All this might appear very cut-and-dried. Yet even adult diabetes, normally more predictable than juvenile diabetes, has its own surprises. Take an obese person who always overeats. In order to manage his surplus carbohydrates, his pancreas gets overactive and creates more than the normal amount of insulin. If there’s no inherent susceptibility and no great stress, he might go on all his life and never develop diabetes.
On the other hand, if he has a diabetic heredity or if he comes across some great physical or emotional stress, a proportional insulin shortage may ensue. The pancreas, though still healthy, can’t produce that extra quantity of necessary insulin. A diet, bringing down the obesity and cutting the excess carbohydrate, might repair the balance and get rid of the diabetes symptoms