To understand the role of sugar, we first need to understand that sugar is a carbohydrate. Our body digests carbs into glucose, which is a sugar that can be converted into energy. Even though the human digestive system breaks down carbs from food into different types of sugars, glucose is the body’s main source of energy. In fact, glucose goes directly from the digestive system into the bloodstream after the food has been digested.
However, glucose may only enter cells if insulin is found present in the bloodstream. The pancreas automatically releases insulin which allows glucose to enter cells. The basic process will go something like this: You eat something, the body starts digesting it, blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream in order for the glucose to enter cells. As more glucose enters the cells, blood sugar level decreases back to normal.
Glycogen, also known as extra glucose, is stored in the muscles and liver. If a person hasn’t eaten for a long time, the blood sugar levels continue to decrease so much so that the pancreas automatically releases glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that signals the glycogen (stored glucose) to be broken down into glucose. This process allows the blood sugar level to turn back to normal.
What about Extra Glucose?
The body stores extra glucose in the muscles and liver by creating long chains of glucose known as glycogen. When there is the limited amount of glucose in one’s body, the body starts activating the stored glycogen and encourages you to eat food. This is ideal in maintaining a balanced blood-glucose level.
However, if a person hasn’t eaten for a prolonged period of time, their blood sugar level continues to decrease, so much so, that the pancreas automatically releases glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that signals the glycogen (stored glucose) to be broken down into glucose. The glucose then gets absorbed and used for energy. This process allows the blood sugar level to turn back to normal.
By balancing insulin and glucagon, the body is able to maintain a normal blood glucose level. However, if there is a problem in one of the two, this will significantly affect blood sugar levels. It is also important to understand blood sugar levels so that one can know how to balance one’s diet in order to live a healthy lifestyle.