From Our 2008 Archives

Intensive Insulin for Type 2 Diabetes?

Study Shows Early Insulin Therapy May Be Best for Newly Diagnosed

By Kelley Colihan
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

May 23, 2008 — What if you just found out you have type 2 diabetes? What's the best way to treat it and get it into remission? A new study suggests that intensive insulin therapy may be the way to go.

Researchers in China studied 382 people from 2004 to 2006 who were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Patients randomly received either insulin shots throughout the day, infusions of insulin via a pump, or diabetes pills to bring down their blood sugar levels. The treatment ended after normal blood sugar levels were established for two weeks. The patients then followed up with just diet and exercise to maintain target blood sugar levels.

Those who received insulin had better results than those who took pills to control the disease. More patients who received insulin reached their target blood glucose levels in a shorter amount of time than the group who took pills.

  • 97% of those who got insulin infusions achieved normal blood sugar levels within four days.
  • 95% of those who had daily insulin injections reached normal blood sugar levels within almost six days.
  • 83.5% of those who took the pills hit their target blood sugar levels within nine days.

Insulin Helps With Remission Rates

After a year, even though all three groups were only using diet and exercise to further control their diabetes, the two insulin groups still had better results when it came to being in remission.

  • 51% of those who received insulin infusions were in remission.
  • 45% of those who got daily insulin injections were in remission.
  • 27% of those who took oral medications were in remission.

Insulin Therapy May Help Cells Recover

Researchers found that the insulin therapy seemed to help the body's insulin-producing cells restore and recover and boost the body's ability to balance out its own insulin production.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin or it doesn't make enough insulin. This prevents cells from being able to use glucose, or sugar, as energy.

Previous studies suggest that intensive insulin therapy could change or stave off the progression of type 2 diabetes.

The findings appear in the May 24 issue of The Lancet.

The research was conducted by Jianping Weng and colleagues at the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

SOURCES: The Lancet, May 24, 2008; vol 371: pp 1753-1760. News release, The Lancet. WebMD Medical Reference: "Diabetes Overview."

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