How Insulin Regulates Blood Glucose
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How Insulin Regulates Blood Glucose

Insulin and Glucagon: Pancreatic Endocrine Hormones

Insulin and glucagon are the two hormones the body uses to maintain blood glucose levels. (Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream and help regulate body mechanisms.) Both insulin and glucagon are secreted by the pancreas, hence their description as: pancreatic endocrine hormones.

Normal Blood Glucose Levels

The human body maintains blood glucose levels within relatively narrow parameters. These glucose levels should be between 70 mg/dl and 120 mg/dl before meals; less than 180 mg/dl after meals. [note: mg/dl means milligrams of glucose in 100 milliliters of blood]. Blood glucose levels being below 70, gives rise to hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood glucose, found almost entirely in diabetics on pharmacologic treatment.). Above 180, after meals, is termed hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sguar levels).

How Insulin Regulates Blood Glucose Levels

Inside the pancreas are located more than 100,000 clusters of cells called islets of Langerhans. About 75 percent of these cells are known as beta cells, which produce the hormone insulin. The beta cells are stimulated to produce and secrete insulin when blood glucose levels start rising - eg. after eating. Actually, there is always a low level of insulin being secreted, but insulin-secretion jumps as blood glucose rises. By contrast, when blood glucose levels fall, pancreatic insulin secretion drops. Insulin stimulates a variety of different body cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, thus reducing the overall glucose level. Liver cells also absorb blood glucose which it stores as glycogen.

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