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Insulin and Diabetes

Insulin and Diabetes

  • Insulin and glucagon control blood sugar levels. Insulin reduces glucose in the blood and glucagon converts glycogen (a store of glucose in the liver) back into glucose.
  • Glucose is added into the body through foods containing carbohydrates. Glucose is removed from the blood stream by normal cell respiration and even more so by vigorous exercise.

When glucose levels are too high

  • When a receptor in the body detects a certain level of glucose, insulin is secreted by the pancreas into the bloodstream.
  • The insulin encourages glucose to be taken up by cells and converts glucose to glycogen in the liver, thus reducing glucose in the bloodstream.

When glucose levels are too low

  • The pancreas secrets a hormone called glucagon into the bloodstream. This converts the glycogen in the liver into glucose.
  • This increases the level of glucose in the bloodstream.

Type 1 Diabetes

  • This is when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The result is that a person’s blood sugar can rise to a level that can kill them.
  • When this happens, it can be controlled in two ways:
    • Avoiding foods rich in carbohydrates as these cause glucose levels to rise rapidly.
    • Injecting insulin into the blood at mealtimes. This will make the liver remove the glucose as soon as it enters the blood from the gut, when the food is being digested. This stops the level of glucose in the blood from getting too high and is a very effective treatment.
  • Insulin is usually injected into a subcutaneous tissue (fatty tissue just under the skin).
  • The amount of insulin that needs to be injected depends on the person’s diet and how active they are:
    • Eating a healthy diet reduces the amount of insulin that needs to be injected.
    • Doing regular exercise also reduces the amount of insulin that needs to be injected.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • This occurs often with overweight or obesity. This condition is where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or when a person becomes resistant to insulin (their body cells don’t respond properly).
  • In both of these cases blood sugar levels can rise to a dangerous level.
  • Obese people have an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. People are classified as obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.
  • BMI is worked out using the formula – BMI = body mass / (height)2 where mass is in kg and height is in m.
  • Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and losing weight if needed. Some people with Type 2 diabetes also have medication or insulin injections.