Multiple Organs and Tissues Play a Role in Type 2 Diabetes

The pancreas is not the only organ in the body that impacts type 2 diabetes. Doctors now know that many organs and tissues all play a role in controlling blood sugar levels.

One doctor named 8 organs and tissues involved in blood sugar control the “ominous octet.” When any 1 or a combination of these 8 parts of the body stop working, blood sugar levels rise.1

The 8 body parts include:1

  1. Pancreas beta cells
  2. Pancreas alpha cells
  3. Muscles
  4. Fat cells
  5. Liver
  6. Intestines
  7. Kidneys
  8. Brain

All of these organs and tissues play some role in how the body handles sugar.

Pancreas (beta and alpha cells)

Both alpha cells and beta cells in the pancreas play a central role in controlling blood sugar. Alpha cells increase how much glucagon is made. Glucagon is a hormone that plays a role in turning glycogen stored in the liver and muscles back into glucose (sugar). Your cells use this glucose as energy to get their jobs done.1

Beta cells release insulin. When a person develops type 2 diabetes, beta cells can lose the ability to release that insulin. Beta cells also make the hormone amylin, which controls how quickly sugar is released into the bloodstream after eating. This causes you to feel full and stop eating.1

Muscles

With type 2 diabetes, muscles all over the body help cause higher blood sugar levels. Muscles do that by becoming resistant to insulin. This means the muscles are not able to take up sugar and use it to power the muscle cells.1

Fat cells

Fat cells in people with type 2 diabetes break down more fats and other lipids. This leads to high levels of sugar in the blood, which leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what happens when the body does not respond to insulin like it should.1

Liver

The liver is one of the main places the body stores sugar. Diabetes causes the liver to make up for the body’s lower ability to take up sugar and use it for energy. It does this by making more sugar.1

Intestines

Type 2 diabetes causes the intestines to stop making or make less of hormones called incretins. Diabetes also makes the intestines resistant to its effects. Incretins work with insulin and other hormones to control blood sugar by:1

  • Telling the body to make insulin after eating
  • Slowing how fast the stomach empties, which makes you feel full
  • Delaying the release of sugar into the bloodstream

Kidneys

With type 2 diabetes, the kidneys increase how much sugar is reabsorbed back into the body. This damages the kidneys and keeps them from removing sugar from the bloodstream.1

Brain

The brain plays an important role in type 2 diabetes when it stops controlling appetite. Insulin usually acts as an appetite suppressant. But the brains of people who are obese are resistant to insulin. This resistance leads to more eating, which, in a vicious cycle, leads to weight gain, which makes diabetes worse.1

More about the pancreas

The pancreas is very important because it is the home of 2 of the 8 tissues or organs that play a part in type 2 diabetes. The pancreas is located behind the stomach and has 2 jobs. First, it makes hormones like insulin and releases those hormones into the bloodstream. It also makes digestive enzymes. These are chemicals that help the body break down and absorb nutrients in the small intestine.2

The pancreas also plays an important role in the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a group of organs and glands. These make and release hormones and other chemicals into the bloodstream. The hormones and chemicals it makes help the body perform daily functions.2

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: February 2021.