Skip to content

Understanding different types of insulin

There are so many different types of insulin, and it can be hard to understand what the difference is. Luckily, Dr Michelle Carrihill from the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic has a simple way of explaining them. Read on to find out more…

From a bicycle to a Tesla

The different kinds of insulins can be compared to different vehicles.

  • Premixed human insulin is like a bicycle
  • Rapid acting human insulin and long acting human insulin are like Citi Golfs
  • Analogue insulins (rapid acting and long acting) are like GTis
  • Ultra rapid acting and ultra long acting insulins are like Ferraris
  • The insulin pump is like a Tesla.

You have to match the vehicle (insulin) to the person – there’s not one right fit for everyone.

Different types of insulin

Think about a child with Type 1 diabetes at school. Most kids don’t have nursing sisters at school.

Regular human insulin (rapid-acting) covers breakfast and has a longer tail (duration of impact), and the hill (the increase of impact) of long-acting human insulin covers both break times. That means that the child doesn’t have to inject at school, and can still snack at break times.

Short-acting analogue insulin can work for lunch and dinner, because it’s more rapid, and so there’s less on board while they sleep.

If the child is struggling and skipping doses, and if they don’t have the emotional or psychological support for a more complex insulin regime, then it might be best to go on premix human insulin as a temporary solution. Then you just have to test twice a day, and give a dose twice a day. Back to basics – back to the bicycle.

Rapid acting analogue insulin

Understanding different types of insulin - rapid analogue

These include Novorapid, Apidra and Humalog (the GTIs).

Long acting analogue insulin

Understanding different types of insulin - analogue

Lantus and Levemir – also GTIs.

Rapid acting human insulin

Understanding different types of insulin - human insulin

These include Insuman rapid, Actrapid and Humulin R – the Citi Golfs.

Long acting human insulin

Understanding different types of insulin - human

Insuman basal, Protaphane and Humulin N – also the Citi Golfs.

Premixed human insulin

Understanding different types of insulin - premix

Insuman combo 30/70, Actraphane and Humulin 30/70 – the steady, dependable bicycles.

Understanding different insulins

Now that you understand the different kinds of insulins, you can see how important it is to have individual care when it comes to diabetes. We are all so different, and our daily needs are so different, that the more personal our care can be, the better.

Do you have any other questions about insulin?

What to read next?

Let’s talk about insulin: What kind of insulin do you use? How does it affect your life? How could better insulin make your life better? And why does the right basal insulin matter? Let’s talk about insulin.

10 Fast facts about insulin: All you need to know about your medication – and how to store it.

Does insulin make you fat?: Understanding insulin, insulin is the most potent and effective treatment for elevated blood glucose levels.

What to read next
Join South Africans with Diabetes on Facebook

Join our diabetes community

Be First to Comment

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.