top of page


Diabetes is a disease when your blood glucose is too high due to too little insulin or the insulin is not working well enough. Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas that takes the glucose from the blood and into the cells for energy.  If there is not enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.  

Having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems.  Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes with a healthy diet and medication as prescribed by your doctor.  


As an Accredited Dietitian, Maya McColm can provide you with personalised healthy eating advice, including low Glycaemc Index foods, to help you maintain your blood glucose levels within the normal range - for optimal health.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition in which the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. We do not know what causes this auto-immune reaction. Type 1 diabetes is not linked to modifiable lifestyle factors. There is no cure and it cannot be prevented.

Type 1 diabetes:

  • Occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin

  • Represents around 10% of all cases of diabetes and is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions

  • Onset is usually abrupt and the symptoms obvious

  • Symptoms can include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness and fatigue and blurred vision

  • Is managed with insulin injections several times a day or the use of an insulin pump.

What happens to the pancreas?

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach, stops making insulin because the cells that make the insulin have been destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without insulin, the body’s cells cannot turn glucose (sugar), into energy. 

People with type 1 diabetes depend on insulin every day of their lives to replace the insulin the body cannot produce. They must test their blood glucose levels several times throughout the day. 

The onset of type 1 diabetes occurs most frequently in people under 30 years, however new research suggests almost half of all people who develop the condition are diagnosed over the age of 30. About 10-15% of all cases of diabetes are type 1.

What happens if people with type 1 diabetes don’t receive insulin?

Without insulin the body burns its own fats as a substitute which releases chemical substances in the blood. Without ongoing injections of insulin, the dangerous chemical substances will accumulate and can be life threatening if it is not treated. This is a condition call ketoacidosis.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, but we do know it has a strong family link and cannot be prevented. We also know that it has nothing to do with lifestyle, although maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important in helping to manage type 1 diabetes.

At this stage nothing can be done to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes.


  • Being excessively thirsty 

  • Passing more urine

  • Feeling tired and lethargic

  • Always feeling hungry

  • Having cuts that heal slowly 

  • Itching, skin infections

  • Blurred vision 

  • Unexplained weight loss 

  • Mood swings

  • Headaches 

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Leg cramps.

These symptoms may occur suddenly. If they occur, see a doctor. Through a simple test, a doctor can find out if they’re the result of type 1 diabetes.

Management, Care and Treatment

Type 1 diabetes is managed with insulin injections several times a day or the use of an insulin pump. While your lifestyle choices didn’t cause type 1 diabetes, the choices you make now can reduce the impact of diabetes-related complications including kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness. 

If you have recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or have a family member with type 1 diabetes, view information on managing type 1 diabetes.


Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. We do not know what causes type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors. Type 2 diabetes also has strong genetic and family related risk factors.

Type 2 diabetes:

  • Is diagnosed when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (reduced insulin production) and/or the insulin does not work effectively and/or the cells of the body do not respond to insulin effectively (known as insulin resistance)

  • Represents 85–90 per cent of all cases of diabetes

  • Usually develops in adults over the age of 45 years but is increasingly occurring in younger age groups including children, adolescents and young adults

  • Is more likely in people with a family history of type 2 diabetes or from particular ethnic backgrounds

  • For some the first sign may be a complication of diabetes such as a heart attack, vision problems or a foot ulcer

  • Is managed with a combination of regular physical activity, healthy eating and weight reduction. As type 2 diabetes is often progressive, most people will need oral medications and/or insulin injections in addition to lifestyle changes over time.

What happens with type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops over a long period of time (years). During this period of time insulin resistance starts, this is where the insulin is increasingly ineffective at managing the blood glucose levels. As a result of this insulin resistance, the pancreas responds by producing greater and greater amounts of insulin, to try and achieve some degree of management of the blood glucose levels. 

As insulin overproduction occurs over a very long period of time, the insulin producing cells in the pancreas wear themselves out, so that by the time someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they have lost 50 – 70% of their insulin producing cells. This means type 2 diabetes is a combination of ineffective insulin and not enough insulin. When people refer to type 2 diabetes as a progressive condition they are referring to the ongoing destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreas. 

Initially, type 2 diabetes can often be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity. Over time most people with type 2 diabetes will also need tablets and many will eventually require insulin. It is important to note that this is the natural progression of the condition, and taking tablets or insulin as soon as they are required can result in fewer long-term complications.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes runs in the family. If you have a family member with diabetes, you have a genetic disposition to the condition. 

While people may have a strong genetic disposition towards type 2 diabetes, the risk is greatly increased if people display a number of modifiable lifestyle factors including high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

People are at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes if they:

  • have a family history of diabetes 

  • are older (over 55 years of age ) - the risk increases as we age 

  • are over 45 years of age and are overweight 

  • are over 45 years of age and have high blood pressure 

  • are over 35 years of age and are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background 

  • are over 35 years of age and are from Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background 

  • are a woman who has given birth to a child over 4.5 kgs (9 lbs), or had gestational diabetes when pregnant, or had a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. 


Many people with type 2 diabetes display no symptoms. As type 2 diabetes is commonly (but not always) diagnosed at a later age, sometimes signs are dismissed as a part of ‘getting older’. In some cases, by the time type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the complications of diabetes may already be present. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Being excessively thirsty 

  • Passing more urine 

  • Feeling tired and lethargic 

  • Always feeling hungry 

  • Having cuts that heal slowly 

  • Itching, skin infections 

  • Blurred vision 

  • Gradually putting on weight 

  • Mood swings 

  • Headaches 

  • Feeling dizzy 

  • Leg cramps

Managing Type 2 Diabetes

While there is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes, the condition can be managed through lifestyle modifications and medication. Type 2 diabetes is progressive and needs to be managed effectively to prevent complications. 


bottom of page