What Is Insulin?

Insulin is an hormone and small protein that regulates blood glucose levels and is secreted by groups of islet cells found within the pancreas organ; a single Insulin molecule consists of 2 polypeptide chains, 21 A-type amino acids and 30 B-type amino acids, the building blocks of all proteins.

Blood glucose levels increase when carbohydrates are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream after a meal; the pancreas should then respond to this increase by secreting Insulin, which should attach itself to cell Insulin receptors; this enables signals to be sent to other receptors which are designed to absorb glucose from the blood and into the cell.

For thousands of years becoming a diabetic was a death sentence and this may still have been the case today if Dr. Frederick Banting had not Discovered Insulin in 1921; before this the only way to control diabetes was through a diet that was extremely low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in fat and protein; most diabetics on this type of diet lived for about a year, if they didn't starve to death first.

Since 1922 the production and supply of Insulin has been greatly improved and high quality Insulin is now available to all diabetics in civilised countries; the first Insulin preparations, known as bovine and porcine Insulin, came from the pancreases of slaughtered cows and pigs, which was purified, bottled and sold and works very well for the majority of diabetics; today human and synthetic Insulins, which are genetically engineered and structurally identical to that made by a functioning human pancreas are also used.

Lack of Insulin, or Insulin resistance, in the body means high blood glucose levels because the cells do not absorb glucose from the bloodstream; the body goes into starvation mode and the pancreatic alpha cells secrete glucagon causing a rise in blood glucose levels to feed the cells.

The glucagon then breaks down the stored glycogen in the liver and muscles, which releases glucose into the blood, further increasing the blood glucose levels to a point that the kidneys can no longer absorb all of the glucose, so it is passed with the urine, enabling glucose test strip detection.

The pancreas is located below the stomach in the abdomen, on the left hand side of the body; in diabetics the pancreas either produces too little Insulin, or the cells do not respond well to the Insulin, resulting in dangerously high levels of blood sugar which can cause a condition called Hyperglycaemia, which means far too much glucose is circulating in the blood and can be caused by not taking the right amount of Insulin, eating too many sugary foods or drinks and being ill or stressed; the resulting high blood glucose levels lead to glucose in the urine and frequent urination.

The opposite to Hyperglycaemia is Ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma or even death; it occurs when their isn't enough Insulin in the blood and the body starts to break down proteins for energy instead of using blood sugar; this process creates dangerously high levels of ketones in the blood, which can poison the body; they are a warning sign that the diabetes is out of control.

Insulin basically promotes the growth and storage of energy and stops the depletion of energy stores within the cells; there are currently Three Forms Of Insulin Animal Insulin, as the name suggests, comes from animals; Human Insulin, as the name suggests, does not come from humans; it is synthetic and made in laboratories and Analogue Insulin, which refers to another laboratory grown Insulin, which is genetically altered.

If your body no longer makes enough Insulin, you will need to take it and your doctor can help you decide which way of Taking Insulin is best for you.

NB. When injecting Insulin be aware of the fact that repeated Insulin injections in the same area can cause medical problems such as Lipoatrophy and Lipohypertrophy.

Diabetes Related Information Leaflets

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