Why we need insulin and its role

Every living thing requires energy to survive. In cells, energy is stored and moved around using a molecule called ATP. Cells rely on ATP to survive.

Glucose is important in the creation of ATP cells.

Insulin helps to control the amount of glucose the body absorbs or releases. So without insulin your cells can’t produce enough ATP and your body doesn’t have enough energy to function properly.

ATP – the fuel for life

Humans bodies cannot create glucose. We rely on our diets to provide it for us. Almost everything we eat is able to be broken down to create glucose.

• Carbohydrates, are sugars, and easily converted to glucose.

• Proteins can be converted to glucose via an enzymatic process called gluconeogenesis.

• Even fats are converted to a type of glucose called glycerol.

Glucose from our food ends up in our blood to travel around our bodies to the tissues that need it.

The glucose produced is providing energy to the cells to ensure that your body is functioning as it needs to.

It is vital that your body is able to keep the glucose balance right in order to keep working properly.

A too-low blood glucose level would mean that the cells will not be able to generate enough ATP to function. This is a condition known as hypoglycemia.

On the other extreme a too-high blood glucose level causes the blood to thicken, slowing it down. Your body tries to balance out the thick blood by drawing fluid from other tissues to try and thin the blood again.

This condition is called called hyperglycemia. Symptons range from blurred vision to fatigue, dry mouth and heart problems.

Ideally a blood glucose level needs to be around 3.6 to 5.8 mM (mmols/liter). This is enough glucose to provide energy to the body for 20-30 minutes. Thereafter a person without diabetes is able to release more glucose, use the glucose, then release more, allowing the body to provide a continual stream of energy.

This process doesn’t work well in a diabetic person. Their bodies aren’t able to balance the glucose levels because there is an imbalance in their insulin levels.

Insulin and its role

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a relatively small peptide hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas.

When people eat, the body adapts to the amount of sugar it receives by releasing insulin. This is why non-diabetic people are able to eat high sugar food like candy without going into hyperglycemia.

Our bodies release insulin before and during eating. The insulin tells our cells to start absorbing glucose out of the blood, lowering our blood glucose levels. It does this by stimulating the cells to absorb the glucose and store it.

Insulin signals the liver, muscle and fat tissues to take up glucose from the blood and store it as glycogen.

As the glucose level in the blood drops to normal, insulin release slows or stops.

If the glucose level of the blood drops too low, another hormone, called glucagon, is released which does the opposite of insulin. This hormone stimulates the liver to release glucose into the blood to ensure that the blood glucose remains stable.

This process is meant to keep the glucose level in the body working well to ensure that cells have energy to perform their functions. In diabetics, however the body is less able to respond to insulin or there is too much glucagon. This means that blood glucose levels are too high.

The aim is to get this balance back so that the insulin and glucagon work together again. This can be done through meal planning and ensuring that you are receiving the right amount of nutrients from a variety of foods.

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