Everything you need to know about Insulin


In this article, you will know and understand everything about insulin and why it is vital for our body.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone which is secreted by the beta cells of the Islets of Langerhans located in the pancreas.

insulin - blood glucose level
insulin – blood glucose level

Understanding insulin – What does insulin do?

When we eat, the food gets broken down into the simplest molecules for absorption called glucose or sugars.

Sugar travels through the blood to reach all the cells of the body.

This is where insulin comes into the picture.

Sugar from food makes the blood glucose levels go up if it cannot be taken up by the cells.

Insulin is a hormone that  helps sugar move from the blood and into the cells for its utilisation.

When we eat, another hormone called “GLP-1” (Glucagon-like peptide – 1) helps the pancreas produce the right amount of insulin to move sugar from the blood and into the cells.

When the blood sugar is too high, the GLP – 1 stimulates the beta cells to produce more insulin to regulate and lower blood glucose levels.

This process occurs in a normal, functioning healthy body.

Whereas in diabetes,   

Insulin is either insufficiently secreted or secreted in enough quantities but not utilised properly.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease which is observed in millions of people across the world. This condition does not have a cure yet but can be managed. Diabetes occurs when the body loses its ability to regulate blood glucose levels on its own.

Diabetes is mainly classified into type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Let us look at the fate of insulin in each of these types to understand the mechanism of insulin action:

Every cell in the body needs energy and glucose is the chief source of energy for all the cells in the body.

When the glucose in the blood rises, the pancreas gets a signal to secrete insulin. 

Each cell in the body has receptors which need to get unlocked by insulin to enable glucose uptake.

Insulin binds to these receptors and helps in glucose utilisation by the cells.

Now, the glucose may continue to be at high levels when the cells fail to take up the blood glucose and utilise it for energy.

This can happen due to 2 scenarios.

In the first scenario, the pancreas may not produce enough insulin although glucose may be present and cells may possess fully functioning insulin receptors.

  •  Glucose in the blood – present.
  • Insulin receptors – functioning.
  • Insulin – insufficient insulin produced or deficiency of insulin.
  • Blood glucose levels – high.

This condition is known as type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes because it usually develops in childhood or as auto-immune diabetes since the body’s own immune system destroys the beta cells leading to impairment in insulin production. Type 1 is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes since insulin is deficient in the body and needs to be administered from external sources.

In the second scenario, the receptors on the cells of the body do not respond or become desensitised to insulin leading to hyperglycemia or high blood glucose levels.

  • Glucose in the blood – present.
  • Insulin receptors – desensitised.
  • Insulin – enough insulin may be produced.
  • Blood glucose levels – high.

This condition is called type 2 diabetes or Diabetes mellitus.

And the desensitisation of the cells to insulin is called insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance

Let us look at the risk factors that cause insulin resistance, the signs, and complications along with the treatment or prevention of insulin resistance.

Risk factors

  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Have had gestational diabetes (during pregnancy)
  • Diseases like NAFLD (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • If diabetes runs in the family
  • Smoking


  • High Blood pressure
  • Frequent urination
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Dark, patchy skin around neck and armpits


If insulin resistance is not treated, it can cause:

  • Prolonged high blood glucose levels 
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney problems
  • Eye disorders
  • Amputations

Prevention & Treatment

Insulin resistance can be reversed by making the following lifestyle modifications:

  • Exercise: at least 30 minutes a day
  • Maintaining normal, healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Taking the prescribed medications to keep the blood glucose levels in check

Ending note

Since, developing insulin resistance or diabetes is usually asymptomatic and may go unnoticed, it is important to go for regular health check-ups and consult a physician to monitor the blood glucose levels for taking the necessary steps of prevention or treatment.

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