How Does Insulin Work?


Quick Answer

Insulin works by regulating sugar in the bloodstream and helping the body store extra glucose for energy, states Mayo Clinic. Its primary role is maintaining normal sugar levels in the bloodstream.

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Full Answer

After a person consumes food, carbohydrates break down into sugar and turn into glucose, the body’s main energy source, before entering the bloodstream, explains Mayo Clinic. In response, the pancreas starts to produce insulin, which enables sugar to go into the tissues. When the body has high levels of insulin, it changes glucose into glycogen and stores the glycogen in the liver. However, when the body has low insulin levels between meals, the liver allows glycogen to enter the bloodstream as sugar to maintain normal blood sugar levels. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces a very small amount of insulin or no insulin at all. In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not create sufficient insulin or becomes immune to insulin’s effect. In these cases, the bloodstream’s sugar level rises because the sugar cannot enter cells.

Insulin therapy is usually necessary to treat diabetes, says Mayo Clinic. It serves as a replacement for the insulin that the body cannot produce in patients with Type 1 diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes also need insulin therapy to control blood glucose levels, particularly when other treatments are ineffective.

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