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Blood sugar regulation

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Blood sugar regulation

Blood sugar regulation is the process by which the levels of blood sugar, primarily glucose, are maintained by the body within a narrow range. This phenomenon of tight regulation is commonly referred to as glucose homeostasis. Insulin and glucagon are the most well known of the hormones involved, but more recent discoveries of other glucoregulatory hormones have expanded our understanding of this process.

Contents

Mechanisms of blood sugar regulation

Blood sugar levels are regulated by negative feedback in order to keep the body in homeostasis. The levels of glucose in the blood are monitored by many tissues, but the cells in the pancreas's Islets of Langerhans are among the most well understood and important.

Glucagon

If the blood glucose level falls to dangerous levels (as in very heavy exercise or lack of food for extended periods), the Alpha cells of the pancreas release glucagon, a hormone whose effects on liver cells act to increase blood glucose levels. They convert glycogen into glucose (this process is called glycogenolysis). The glucose is released into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar. Hypoglycemia, the state of having low blood sugar, is treated by restoring the blood glucose level to normal by the ingestion or administration of dextrose or carbohydrate foods. It is often self-diagnosed and self-medicated orally by the ingestion of balanced meals. In more severe circumstances, it is treated by injection or infusion of glucagon.

Insulin

When levels of blood sugar rise, whether as a result of glycogen conversion, or from digestion of a meal, a different hormone is released from beta cells found in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. This hormone, insulin, causes the liver to convert more glucose into glycogen (this process is called glycogenesis), and to force about 2/3 of body cells (primarily muscle and fat tissue cells) to take up glucose from the blood through the GLUT4 transporter, thus decreasing blood sugar. When insulin binds to the receptors on the cell surface, vesicles containing the GLUT4 transporters come to the plasma membrane and fuse together by the process of endocytosis, thus enabling a facilitated diffusion of glucose into the cell. As soon as the glucose enters the cell, it is phosphorylated into Glucose-6-Phosphate in order to preserve the concentration gradient so glucose will continue to enter the cell. Insulin also provides signals to several other body systems, and is the chief regulator of metabolic control in humans.

There are also several other causes for an increase in blood sugar levels. Among them are the 'stress' hormones such as epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), several of the steroids, infections, trauma, and of course, the ingestion of food.

Diabetes mellitus type 1 is caused by insufficient or non-existent production of insulin, while type 2 is primarily due to a decreased response to insulin in the tissues of the body (insulin resistance). Both types of diabetes, if untreated, result in too much glucose remaining in the blood (hyperglycemia) and many of the same complications. Also, too much insulin and/or exercise without enough corresponding food intake in diabetics can result in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Food and blood sugar regulation

Some edible mushrooms are noted for the ability to lower blood sugar levels including Reishi, Maitake Agaricus blazei as well as some others.

Some minerals play roles in glucose regulation: see Chromium in glucose metabolism for example.

References

Blood sugar regulation Wikipedia


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