The difference between human insulin vs analog insulin is an interesting discussion for the curious patient wanting to know more about their treatment plan.

First, you must understand that when insulin was at its infancy around the year 1922, only animal-sourced insulin was used to treat patients. As one can imagine, the industry faced a multitude of issues regarding this: There were supply limitations; there were issues regarding the purification process; and there was the risk of anti-insulin antibodies since the insulin used were from animals. Fortunately, all these problems were resolved when recombinant human insulin was introduced. This newly made insulin functioned the same as regular human insulin. In other words, it produced its effects within 30 to 60 minutes, peaked at 2 to 4 hours, and lasted for 6 to 8 hours. As time passed on, the medical committee knew more about diabetes mellitus and their complications. They realized that recombinant human insulin was actually insufficient—the patients suffering from diabetes mellitus needed a different regime to have a better quality of life. They needed insulin that could function faster, and they also needed insulin that could function over a long period of time. This need propelled the creation of insulin analogs that allowed practitioners to mimic the natural insulin secretion schedule of the human body.

It was found that this was what was needed to achieve and maintain an optimal level of blood sugar control.

Insulin analogs are divided into three categories:

  1. Rapid-acting
  2. Intermediate-acting
  3. Long-acting

Rapid-acting insulin typically functions within 30 minutes, peaks within 1 hour, and lasts for 4 hours. Examples include lispro, aspart, and glulisine. Intermediate-acting insulin functions within 1 to 3 hours, peaks in 6 to 8 hours and lasts approximately 16 hours. A well-known example is neutral protamine Hagedorn (NPH). Lastly, long-acting insulin, glargine and detemir, functions within 3 hours and can last for about 24 hours.


Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.