What Does Insulin Do?

January 19, 2015 | By More


Diabetes Type 2 is increasing at epidemic proportions which is tragic as there are several things individuals can do to reduce the risk of developing this condition which is often triggered by our modern lifestyles of diets high in processed carbohydrates and lack of exercise. No discussion about diabetes would be complete without delving into the topic of insulin. So, what is insulin? What does insulin do? And why is it important?


Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and plays a vital role in metabolism. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which can be easily transported through the bloodstream and utilized by the cells. But in order to optimally absorb and use glucose, cells need the aid of insulin, particularly fat, muscle and liver cells.

 Insulin Resistance

Typically, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood after the consumption of a meal. Apart from aiding in the transportation of glucose to the bloodstream and individual cells, the hormone aids liver and muscle tissues in storing excess glucose in the form of glycogen. Additionally, the hormone is essential in lowering glucose production in the liver.


However, there are certain factors which inhibit the proper functioning of insulin in the body or, what is called, insulin resistance. This includes being overweight, getting inadequate exercise, cigarette smoking, the use of medications and steroids as well as inadequate sleep. In some cases, people are predisposed to insulin resistance due to ethnicity, age and other diseases.


Insulin resistance is a case wherein the body produces the hormone but cannot utilize it properly. Instead of the glucose being utilized by the individual cells for various functions, the glucose remains and builds up in the bloodstream. Because of the inability of the liver, fat and muscle cells to use insulin; the pancreas, particularly its beta cells, must work doubly hard to compensate for this problem.


In the short-term, the increased production of insulin by the beta cells can make up for this, allowing a person’s blood glucose levels to remain within an acceptable range. However, as the problem continues to persist the pancreas and its beta cells can no longer cope with the increased demand for insulin. These problems include diabetes and pre-diabetes.


Pre-diabetes occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels rise to a point where they are significantly higher than what is deemed to be normal but lower than the threshold to be considered diabetic. While medical experts are quick to point out that being pre-diabetic does not necessarily lead to being a diabetic, the condition can lead to more serious consequences including diabetes and cardiovascular disease if left unchecked. Apart from these diseases, people with high levels of glucose in their blood are at risk of damaging their blood vessels and nerves, which can lead to even more dangerous conditions.


Just like diabetes, pre-diabetes symptoms are virtually non-existent or hardly detectable; patients can go on for years without knowing that they have a serious problem. But despite the lack of symptoms, medical experts can pinpoint patients through their physical characteristics.


First, those who suffer from insulin resistance have a condition known as acanthosis nigricans which manifests itself through dark patches or rings at the neck, knees, elbows, armpits and knuckles. You should also have yourself tested for pre-diabetes if you: are 45 years old or older; have been physically inactive; have someone in the family who is diabetic; have an African American, Native Alaskan, Asian American, American Indian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander background; have given birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds; have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease; have polycystic ovary syndrome, and are if you overweight.


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Do you know anyone who has diabetes or have you had any experiences with this condition? How do you feel about this topic? Please share your opinion with us in the comment section and let us know if you have any questions. Also, please share this article with your friends on social media by clicking on the buttons you will find the left-hand side.



Category: Health

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