How is insulin related to blood sugar?

The body works almost like a thermostat. When there is too much glucose in the blood, insulin is released and reduces the amount of glucose in the blood. Then, when glucose levels drop, insulin is no longer secreted. The body balances the amount of insulin and glucose to keep glucose at a fairly even level throughout the day. It keeps a little bit of insulin ready to go to work at a moment’s notice. For meals, it releases the right amount of extra insulin in time to clear glucose from the blood before the glucose levels climb too high.

William Lee Dubois

In two words: inversely proportional. Picture insulin and blood sugar like two children on a teeter-totter on a playground. By moving forward or backwards on the balance beam, the two children can both hover above the ground, even if they don’t weigh the same.

Likewise, in your body, if the blood sugar goes up, the body releases insulin from the pancreas. Insulin moves sugar from the blood where it really does very little good, into your cells, which all use sugar for food. When blood sugar drops the body stops releasing insulin. If the blood sugar drops too much, the liver will release some sugar to balance things out.

If you take too much of some diabetes meds, like insulin or a class of drugs called the sulfonylureas, your blood sugar can go very much too low, more than the liver can handle. A low blood sugar can be life threatening, and is treated simply by adding sugar to the system to “soak up” the extra insulin.

If you have a low blood sugar, which is called hypoglycemia, drinking half a regular soda, or eating several hard candies can give you enough sugar to restore balance.

Now, let’s go play on the merry-go-round instead . . .

It's important to have the right balance of insulin and glucose in the blood because too much insulin will lead to a low blood glucose level. Not enough insulin will lead to a high blood glucose level.

If people with type 1 diabetes don't take enough insulin they can end up with too much glucose in their blood. This is called hyperglycemia, or a "high." It can be dangerous if blood glucose stays high. If there's too much insulin, all the glucose gets used up, meaning there is not enough glucose in the blood. This is called hypoglycemia, or a "low." Low blood glucose can make people feel weak, hungry, tired and they may shake and sweat.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Insulin is a hormone normally produced by the pancreas in response to blood sugar, which is sugar from digested foods circulating in the bloodstream. The animation shows more about blood sugar and insulin.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.