Insulin is a protein hormone secreted by the beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. This hormone was discovered by Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod who won a Nobel Prize in 1923. Frederick Sanger followed in 1958 for his discovery of the insulin’s amino acid sequence.
Insulin regulates the blood sugar level and stimulates the liver, the muscles, other tissues and the fat cells to convert the blood glucose into glycogen and fat which is the body’s source of stored carbohydrates. Insulin also converts glucose, a main source of energy for the body, into fat and stimulates protein synthesis in the muscles. Insulin influences other body functions like brain functions. Insulin in the brain enhances verbal memory and learning. It also enhances thermoregulation and glucoregulatory reaction to eating. This strongly implies the relationship of the central nervous system to the regulation of homeostasis in the body.
Recent science has shown that insulin plays a major role in the process of converting excess consumed energy into fat. Because historically, the human body did not consume large amounts of carbohydrates, large doses of energy in the form of carbohydrates set off an insulin spike. Rather than burning through consumed energy as it would in a more natural state, high insulin levels tell the body to start storing the energy as fat immediately. High levels of insulin are also known to cause inflammation in the human body.
The primary reason that low-carb diets work is that they keep the body from triggering an insulin spike which inevitably leads to premature fat storage. On low-carb diets, the energy consumed in the form of proteins and fats is given more time to be burned off and used before being stored.
Insufficient insulin or resistance to insulin can result to diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia. Stress is a main contributory to the inhibition of insulin release and can greatly aggravate diabetes. Among the symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, weight loss, hunger, blurred vision and thirst. The usual management is proper diet, exercise and the patient is given a commercial insulin preparation to help the body utilize the glucose in the blood. This insulin is produced from the pancreas of certain animals or genetically engineered and usually introduced to the patient by injection. Diabetes if not properly controlled can lead to further complications like high blood pressure, blindness, kidney failure, amputation, infections and skin diseases.