What is Insulin?

Insulin (from Latin insula, island) is a peptide hormone produced by beta cells of the pancreatic islets; it is considered to be the main anabolic hormone of the body.[5] It regulates the metabolism of carbohydratesfats and protein by promoting the absorption of carbohydrates, especially glucose from the blood into liverfat and skeletal muscle cells.[6] In these tissues the absorbed glucose is converted into either glycogen via glycogenesis or fats (triglycerides) via lipogenesis, or, in the case of the liver, into both.[6] Glucose production and secretion by the liver is strongly inhibited by high concentrations of insulin in the blood.[7] Circulating insulin also affects the synthesis of proteins in a wide variety of tissues. It is therefore an anabolic hormone, promoting the conversion of small molecules in the blood into large molecules inside the cells. Low insulin levels in the blood have the opposite effect by promoting widespread catabolism, especially of reserve body fat.

Beta cells are sensitive to glucose concentrations, also known as blood sugar levels. When the glucose level is high, the beta cells secrete insulin into the blood; when glucose levels are low, secretion of insulin is inhibited.[8] Their neighboring alpha cells, by taking their cues from the beta cells,[8] secrete glucagon into the blood in the opposite manner: increased secretion when blood glucose is low, and decreased secretion when glucose concentrations are high.[6][8] Glucagon, through stimulating the liver to release glucose by glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis, has the opposite effect of insulin.[6][8] The secretion of insulin and glucagon into the blood in response to the blood glucose concentration is the primary mechanism of glucose homeostasis.[8]

If beta cells are destroyed by an autoimmune reaction, insulin can no longer be synthesized or be secreted into the blood. This results in type 1 diabetes mellitus, which is characterized by abnormally high blood glucose concentrations, and generalized body wasting.[9] In type 2 diabetes mellitus the destruction of beta cells is less pronounced than in type 1 diabetes, and is not due to an autoimmune process. Instead there is an accumulation of amyloid in the pancreatic islets, which likely disrupts their anatomy and physiology.[8] The pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes is not well understood but patients exhibit a reduced population of islet beta-cells, reduced secretory function of islet beta-cells that survive, and peripheral tissue insulin resistance.[5] Type 2 diabetes is characterized by high rates of glucagon secretion into the blood which are unaffected by, and unresponsive to the concentration of glucose in the blood. Insulin is still secreted into the blood in response to the blood glucose.[8] As a result, the insulin levels, even when the blood sugar level is normal, are much higher than they are in healthy persons…Read More

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