What are insulin and glucagon?

Insulin and glucagon are 2 hormones secreted by the pancreas to control the body’s blood sugar levels. Together, they work to balance out glucose in the blood, keeping blood sugar levels in their optimal range (between 70mg/dL and 110mg/dL). When blood sugar levels are high, insulin is secreted in order to decrease the amount of glucose in the blood. When blood sugar levels are low, the pancreas secretes glucagon, which brings blood sugar levels back up.

With this, insulin and glucagon work together in a sort of cycle, or negative feedback loop. When insulin levels rise, the liver begins to absorb excess glucose and convert it to glycogen for storage. This glycogen later helps in treating low blood sugar levels caused by missed meals or poor nutrition. As soon as blood sugar levels drop, glucagon instructs the liver to convert glycogen to glucose. This glucose enters the bloodstream and is then absorbed by the insulin receptors on cells.

Difference between glucagon vs. insulin

While insulin deficiency leads to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, glucagon deficiency leads to glucagonoma and hypoglycemia. Insulin causes cells to increase their intake of amino acids, increases the amount of glucose stored in muscles, and reduces hunger by controlling the hypothalamus. Glucagon has no effect on amino acids, muscles, or the hypothalamus.

Glucagon and diabetes

For those with diabetes, glucagon generally increases the blood glucose level too high. This is due to the fact that those with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin or are insulin resistant. For those with type 1 diabetes, circulating insulin levels can be too high. This results in the obstruction of glucagon release.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.