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Thursday, January 21, 2010

How does insulin work?

Diabetes has come onto my radar in more than one way recently. Both within my circle of friends and my direct family. With type one diabetes I thought I had a basic grasp of insulin function. I thought insulin would kind of "digest" the blood sugar in the bloodstream. Well, then I encountered type 2. The explanation I recieved was that the body built up a "resistance" to insulin over time. How could sugar build up a resistance?

Yes, that is a silly question. It made me realize I had it all wrong. I looked it up. Insulin is an enzyme that plugs into the receptor sites of cells in the liver and muscles. As a result, these cells are coaxed into absorbing blood glucose, turning it into glycogen, ready for use as energy. It's these cells that build up a resistance, not sugar.

It has some other effects as well. Insulin also stops the cells from using stored fat for energy and takes the excess fuel in the blood and converts it into fat. That's way eating sugar and simple carbohydrates makes new fat and keeps us from losing fat.

The prevelence of obesity and increasing cases of type 2 diabetes in our culture points to the dangers on industrial farming, monoculture, and distributed food systems, but we'll leave those issues for another thread.

-Jeremy

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