Type-2 diabetes is the most widespread kind. Its onset may be delayed or avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle (healthy nutrition, physical exercise and weight watching). Type-1 diabetes, on the other hand, cannot be prevented.

Causes of Type-1 diabetes

Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease: the body itself destroys the pancreatic cells.

The pancreas is therefore unable to produce sufficient insulin, a hormone which enables the sugar to be distributed to the cells, so regulating the levels of sugar in the blood.

Type-1 diabetes is the result of an interaction between a genetic susceptibility and an environmental cause which is still not understood and, so far as we know at present, is not avoidable.

Causes of Type-2 diabetes

Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to use insulin properly.

The pancreas continues to produce insulin but the body has become resistant to it:

  • the cells are less sensitive to the action of insulin 
  • the pancreas compensates and produces too much insulin (reactive hyperinsulinaemia)
  • progressively the pancreas becomes exhausted and the production of insulin decreases
  • blood glucose levels rise. 

The mechanism of Type-2 diabetes has a complex and multifactorial origin.

Various factors can increase the risk of getting Type-2 diabetes:

  • heredity
  • age (from 45 years)
  • overweight and obesity
  • abdominal fat
  • a lack of physical exercise
  • high glucose levels
  • pregnancy diabetes
  • smoking.


Sciensano measures the prevalence of diabetes in the population and monitors the quality of care given to diabetic patients with the aim of improving it.

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