Types of Insulin

A healthy pancreas secretes insulin in two different ways. First of all, during the day it secretes a low level of insulin, which allows sugar to go into the cells, even when you are not eating. We call this the basal insulin. In addition, the pancreas secretes what you can think of as “a little squirt” of insulin every single time you eat. 

A healthy pancreas doesn’t know if you’ve eaten a snack or a proper meal, but it does know how much food (particularly carbohydrates) came into the system, and how much insulin it needs to secrete.  The insulin that is secreted with food is called the bolus insulin.

Patients with type 1 diabetes must try to imitate this pattern with the different types of insulin that are available.

Types of Insulin 

There are several different types of insulin. These types are classified according to how quickly they begin working and how long the insulin lasts:

  • Rapid-acting Insulin – insulin lispro (Humalog®),  insulin aspart (Novolog), and insulin glulisine (Apidra®)
  • Short-acting Insulin (insulin regular)
  • Intermediate-acting Insulin (eg, insulin NPH)
  • Long-acting Insulin (eg, insulin glargine (Lantus®), insulin detemir (Levemir®)
  • Ultra-rapid-acting Insulin – There are a few companies developing ultra rapid insulin but non have been approved for use so far.

The different types of Insulin can be used in combination to achieve around-the-clock blood sugar control.

Insulin can be taken either by injection or be administered by an insulin pump. There is still no oral (pill or inhaled) form of insulin although there are a few companies developing these medications.


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