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Somogyi Effect – Can Overabundance of Insulin Cause Rise in Blood Sugar Level ?

The Somogyi effect or chronic Somogyi rebound is a phenomenon discovered by Dr. Michael Somogyi, a Hungarian-born professor of biochemistry at the Washington University and Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. He is credited with preparing the treatment of diabetes using insulin for the first time way back in October 1922 in the United States.

Dr. Somogyi claimed that excess presence of insulin destabilize the blood sugar level in the body, publishing his finding in 1938. This phenomenon is well-known and controversial at the same time. Doctors and diabetic patients are well aware of this effect. It is controversial because there are very few scientific evidences to support its proposed theory. Latest research studies suggest that this effect can even by a false one.

Controversies are often associated with interesting aspects per se. Moreover, knowledge of what is wrong is as important as the knowledge of what is right. This article tries to gain insight on the chronic Somogyi rebound phenomenon.

Basics of Somogyi Effect:

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder. An ailment is called so when our body’s natural protection system (technically called the immune system) turns hostile and disrupts the normal functioning of the body.

The food we eat gets converted to energy called glucose. This energy should either be transported to the cells which require energy to work properly or be stored for later use. A chemical called insulin hormone ensures that this objective is met.

In the body of type 1 diabetes patients, there is a shortage of insulin hormone production. This results in rise of blood sugar level. It is an undesirable state with several associated complications.

Type 1 diabetes patients have to take insulin injections manually on daily basis in order to meet the requirement of this hormone in the body in monitoring blood sugar level.

What is Somogyi Effect ?

When the blood sugar level raises in the body, the condition is celled hyperglycemia. When it reduces below the normal level, it is called hypoglycemia. In either of the cases, the correction of the condition is the delivery of appropriate dose of the insulin hormone. Insufficient or excess insulin hormone presence disrupts normalcy in blood sugar level.

Dr. Somogyi believed that excess production of insulin, leading to hypoglycemia, when untreated for a long time, causes rebound of blood sugar level. The effect can confuse a regular insulin user as the blood sugar level will be high in the morning as a result of excess insulin intake at night. Common sense makes us believe that blood sugar level should reduce if there is high insulin intake.

What Causes Chronic Somogyi Rebound ?

This rebound is a defensive response of the body. It responds to hypoglycemia by releasing hormones glucagon, epinephrine and cortisol. Glucagon signals the release of glucose from liver to rise the blood sugar level. The hormones epinephrine and cortisol stop the insulin hormone taken, from interfering in this rise for many hours. This leads to sustaining of the raised blood sugar.

Diagnosis and Prevention of Chronic Somogyi Rebound:

A blood glucose meter can be used to test blood sugar for 8 to 10 times daily. This will help in detecting the low blood sugar level prior to a rebound. Testing the blood sugar level at night times is very crucial as well. Some practices which can avoid this effect are:

  • Being aware of the signs of low blood sugar level
  • Knowledge of the symptoms of high blood sugar level when there is excess delivery of insulin
  • Keeping a track of blood sugar results and reviewing them from time to time for signs of hypoglycemia
  • Use of appropriate types of insulin in appropriate amounts

There are 5-10 percent type 1 diabetic patients in North America. Because of the nature of the disease, it has no cure and it can only be treated. This form of diabetes mostly affects children below the age of 20 years. It demands a very strict life style from them in order to monitor the blood sugar level and avoid complications.

Awareness about the disease and its associated conditions (like Somogyi effect), go a long way in the management of the disease. Patience is vitally important for parents of the children suffering from this dreadful disease, while they explain the impact of this disease on the lives of their loved ones.

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