Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps adjusting your blood sugar levels in blood. This hormone is vital for the transmission and storage of glucose in our cells, and it helps using this glucose as an energy source for our organism.

Insulin acts as a key, allowing the entrance of glucose to cells. If glucose cannot enter cells, it ends up accumulating in blood.

But, did you know there are different types of insulin? We tell you all you need to know about them.

Types of insulin

In our pancreas, there are two different kinds of insulin released:

  • A continuous and slow one, that helps keeping our glucose levels among levels of 70-100 mg/dl: basal secretion.
  • A fast and in bigger amount one, released usually when blood sugar levels are higher, after meals: pulsatile secretion.

What is short-acting insulin?

This type of insulin is fastly absorbed from the adipose tissue in the bloodstream. It is used to control high levels of glucose in our blood while eating and drinking.

Types of short-acting insulin


Human insulin

For about 50 years the only insulin available was that of cows and pigs, until NovoNordisk found out how to ellaborate syntetic human insulin using a key element in a piece of bread: yeast. Human insulin is obtained thanks to genetic engeneering, producing it with a chemical structure similar to that produced by the human pancreas.

Analogous insulin

During the last years, there have been developed the so called analogous insulin: similar molecules to human insulin, modified in their aminoacid sequence by genetic bioengineering. This type of insulin has features that improve the use of conventional insulin, as it benefits the absorbency and duration of its action over conventional insulin.

Currently, there are three types of ultra-short-acting analogous insulin: lispro, aspart and glulisine. But there also three analogous of long-acting insulin: glargine, detemir and albulin.

In this post, we will talk about the three types of short-acting insulin.

What does active ingredient mean?

An active ingredient can be any ingredient, no matter its origin, that has an appropriate activity to create a drug from it.

When it comes to insulins, they are all composed by an active ingredient that becomes their brand, as we will see:

Lispro (Humalog)

Lispro active ingredient is a version of the short-action artificial human insulin. This insulin is an analogous of the human insulin in which the order of the aminoacids, lysine and proline, are inverted, while protamine is added in order to delay the starting effects and make them last longer.

Action mechanism: this insulin starts making effect between 5-15 minutes after the injection, and its duration lasts for about 3-4 hours.

Lispro is presented as a vial or container of insulin, applied to pens for its injection. This type of insulin is known as the brand name Humalog and distributed in different formats:

  • Humalog® Kwik pen
  • Humalog® Kwik pen 200 
  • Humalog® Kwik pen junior 
  • Humalog® vial


Aspart insulin is another example of short-action artificial human insulin used to reduce blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) in adults, teeenagers and children from the age of 2 onwards with diabetes mellitus.

This type of insulin is obtained thanks to bioengineering, using a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae in which a modified gen of human insulin is inserted. Aspart insulin is only different from human insulin in that the proline aminoacid is substituted by an aspartic acid, which reduces the time of absorption of the insulin, classifying it as a short-acting type.

Action mechanism: aspart insulin has a starting action effect faster than human insulin, reducing the postprandial blood sugar concentrations during the first 4 hours after a meal.

Aspart insulin brand name is:

  • Novorapid® Penfill
  • Novorapid® Pumpcart
  • Novorapid® vial


Glusiline insulin is the third type of short-acting insulin, obtained through strains of Escherichia coli.

Action mechanism: it shows a fast starting action (5-15 minutes after its injection) and it shows the maximum effect after 55 minutes. Its duration is short (2 to 5 hours).

This type of insulin is shown as:

  • Apidra® Solostar
  • Apidra® cartridges
  • Apidra® vial


Regular insulin (sometimes called ordinary or non-modified insulin) is produced by a strain of Escherichia coli, genetically altered to reproduce the human insulin.

This type of regular insulin is formed by insulin-zinc crystals diluded for its injection and it is completely identical to human insulin. It is used for diabetes mellitus treatments when insulin is needed, but also in cases of hyperglycemic coma and diabetic ketoacidosis, as well as to obtain stabilisation on those patients with diabetes mellitus who have a surgery.

Action mechanism: regular insulin has a fast effect and a relatively short action (4 to 12 hours) if we compare it with other insulins.

This regular insulin is presented as:

  • Actrapid® Innolet
  • Actrapid® vial
  • Humulina® vial 
  • Humulin R U-500 KwikPen

Insulclock is suitable for all of the above mentioned insulin pens. If you want to monitor in real time and have automatically saved the use of your pen, click on this link.