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Regulation of Blood Glucose: Importance & Nutrient Conversion

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  • 0:02 Glucose
  • 1:02 Insulin
  • 2:19 Glucagon
  • 2:59 Gluconeogenesis
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Blood glucose levels are closely regulated and maintained within a narrow range. Learn how the pancreatic hormones, insulin and glucagon, maintain normal blood sugar levels and how other nutrients can be converted to blood glucose in this lesson.

Glucose

If you drink a 12-ounce can of soda, did you know that you are consuming almost ten teaspoons of sugar? So, what does your body do with all of that sugar? Well, refined sugar is handled like any other simple or complex carbohydrate that you consume, which means it gets converted to glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that is used as energy by your body and brain.

Now, just because every cell in your body uses glucose doesn't mean you should start eating more sugar. Your body only allows a certain amount of glucose to be present in your bloodstream at one time. If there's too much, the extra is sent to storage, and as we will discover, one of your body's favorite storage places is your fat cells. In this lesson, we will take a look at how the amount of glucose found in your blood, referred to as blood glucose or blood sugar, is regulated and how nutrients other than carbs can be converted into glucose.

Insulin

When you stop by a fast food restaurant and enjoy a double cheeseburger, fries, and a soda, the carbohydrates in your meal get broken down into glucose within your digestive tract. These molecules are small enough to pass into your bloodstream causing your blood glucose level to rise.

Your pancreas is not happy about this rising blood sugar. In fact, your pancreas acts somewhat like a bouncer at a nightclub; there is too much sugar crowding your bloodstream, so your pancreas tells some of it to leave. To do this your pancreas secretes insulin, which is a hormone that moves glucose out of the blood and into the cells. In other words, some of the blood glucose gets kicked out.

Some of this ousted sugar goes directly into cells that need it for immediate energy. The rest goes into storage, with some being stored in your muscle cells and liver cells as a stored form of glucose called glycogen, while other glucose molecules get converted to fat and stored in fat-storing cells. It might help you remember these stored forms of glucose by remembering that you 'like' glycogen because it's the stored energy that doesn't make you fat.

Glucagon

Let's say that a few hours pass after your meal. As you might imagine, your blood glucose level begins to drop. Now your body's bouncer, I mean your pancreas, needs to let more glucose into your bloodstream. To do this, your pancreas secretes a different hormone called glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that moves sugar into the blood. So, glucagon brings glucose 'on' to the bloodstream and raises your blood sugar level back to normal. Glucagon brings in more glucose by signaling your liver cells to break down the glycogen they have been storing.

Gluconeogenesis

Glycogen is a convenient reserve that your bloodstream can count on to help maintain the normal blood glucose range, which is between 70 mg/dl and 110 mg/dl. But, there is only so much in storage. So, if you go for a longer time without eating, your body looks for alternative energy sources. The fat you have stored on your body begins to release fatty acids.

Your muscles are your body's general workforce and they're not too picky about where they get their energy from, so they begin using the fatty acids for energy. Your brain, however, is the boss and it wants the best energy, which means glucose. In fact, your brain is willing to break down protein and convert this vital nutrient to glucose.

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