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  • A

    Adrenal glands

    Glands located at the top of each kidney that secrete important hormones for the function of many organ systems in the body.

    Adult stem cell

    Undifferentiated cell found among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ that can renew itself. The primary role in a living organism is to maintain and repair the tissue in which it is found.

    Alpha cells

    Alpha cells are found in the pancreas. They produce a hormone called glucagon, which raises blood glucose levels.


    A special kind of protein made by the immune system that is released in response to something foreign in the body eg a virus. Antibodies help fight infection.


    Pertaining to development of an immune response to one’s own tissue.

  • B

    Bariatric surgery

    Surgery to reduce the size of the stomach to help morbidly obese people lose weight. (Also see Lap banding)

    Beta cells

    Cells in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin.

    Blood glucose level (BGL)

    The amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream.

  • C


    A nutrient in food that provides a major source of energy. Usually found in grains, fruits, starchy vegetables and milk-based dairy foods. Is broken down to glucose in the blood stream and raises blood glucose levels.


    A fatty waxy substance made by the body and also found in some foods. High levels of cholesterol in the blood stream are a risk factor for heart disease.

    Coeliac disease

    A condition where there is an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in foods, that causes damage to the small intestine.

  • D

    Dawn phenomenon

    Occurs when BGLs rise in the early hours of the morning due to the natural release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

    Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

    A loss of control of type 1 diabetes with high blood glucose levels and breakdown of fat leading to a build-up of acids in the blood and accompanied by nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Without urgent medical attention, DKA can lead to coma and death.

    Double diabetes

    A recently discovered condition in which hyperglycaemia occurs in children and teenagers with a combination of markers typical of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  • E

    Embryonic stem cells

    Derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilised in vitro and then donated for research purposes with the informed consent of the donors. They are not derived from eggs fertilised in a woman’s body.


    A doctor who specialises in the management of diseases of the glands, including the adrenal, thyroid, pituitary and parathyroid glands, as well as the ovaries, testicles and pancreas.


    A special protein made in the body that assists with the body’s naturally occurring biological functions.

    Erectile dysfunction (impotence)

    The loss of a man’s ability to have an erection. Some men may become impotent after having diabetes for a long time because the nerves or blood vessels have become damaged. Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with diabetes and may be treatable with counselling.

  • F


    One of the three main classes of food and a source of energy in the body. They serve as energy stores for the body. In food, there are three types of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.


    A substance found in foods that come from plants. Fibre helps in the digestive process and is thought to lower cholesterol and help control blood glucose (sugar). The two types of fibre in food are soluble and insoluble.


    A convulsion or seizure that can be a symptom of severe or untreated hypoglycaemia.

  • G

    Gastric banding

    Surgery involving a band, similar to a wristwatch, being surgically fastened around the upper portion of the stomach.


    The body’s main source of energy.


    A hormone made by the pancreas that causes the liver to release glucose from body stores. Manufactured glucagon is injected to raise blood glucose levels in a person with severe hypoglycaemia.

    Glycaemic Index

    A ranking of carbohydrate foods according to their effect on blood glucose levels.

    Glycaemic response

    The effect of different foods on blood glucose (sugar) levels over a period of time.

    Glycaemic load

    The predicted effect of a food on blood glucose levels that takes into account glycaemic index and total available carbohydrate.


    The body’s stores of glucose in the liver and muscle which release glucose (sugar) into the blood when needed by cells. Glycogen is the chief source of stored fuel in the body.

  • H

    HbA1c test

    A test to identify the average blood glucose level over the last two to three months. Also known as a glycosylated haemoglobin test, it measures the amount of glucose that attaches to red blood cells, which depends on how much glucose is in the bloodstream. If BGLs have been high over the two to three month period, more glucose will attach to the red blood cells and HbA1c will be high. If BGLs are mostly within the recommended range, then HbA1c will be closer to the desired level.


    Hormones are chemicals released by special cells that tell other cells what to do. For instance, insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas. When released, insulin tells other cells to use glucose (sugar) for energy.


    Blood glucose levels higher than the desirable range.


    Blood glucose levels lower than the desirable range.


    Too high a level of fats (lipids) in the blood.

  • I

    IDDM (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus)

    A no longer used name for type 1 diabetes.

    Immune system

    A system of the body that provides protection from infection.

    Impaired fasting glucose (IFG)

    Also called pre-diabetes. A condition in which a blood glucose test, taken after an 8- to 12-hour fast, shows a level of glucose higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Based on a different fasting and oral glucose tolerance test from IGT.

    Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)

    IGT, also called pre-diabetes. A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, two hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test. Based on a different fasting and oral glucose tolerance test from IFG.


    The number of new cases of a disease that develop over a period of time. (Also see Prevalence)

    Inhaled insulin

    Insulin taken by being breathed in using a portable device.


    A hormone made by the pancreas that is responsible for controlling blood glucose levels.

    Insulin resistance

    The inability of the body to recognise and use insulin as it should.


    Groups of cells in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food. Also called Islets of Langerhans.

    Islet transplantation

    Placing the islets from a donor pancreas into a person whose pancreas has stopped producing insulin. Beta cells in the islets make the insulin that the body needs for using blood glucose.

  • J

    Juvenile onset diabetes

    Another name for type 1 diabetes.

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