Choose a topic:
Home Bone Heart Spinal Cord Resources Immune System Auto-Immune DiseaseMetabolism and the Immune System Regenerative Medicine Basics
Auto-Immune Diseases: Type I Diabetes    
Print this page

Metabolism, Sugar and Diabetes

Your body needs a great deal of energy to complete your day-to-day activities, such as doing homework, playing soccer, or even reading a book! For any of these activities, even when you’re just sleeping, all of your cells need energy to continue being healthy.

Metabolism

Therefore, your body is constantly busy getting energy, storing storing the food energy, and then spending it, maintaining itself and doing fun things! All of the processes in your body that involve getting or spending energy are known as your metabolism. A high metabolism occurs when your body is both getting a lot of energy and using a lot of energy, whereas a low metabolism occurs when the body neither has nor is able to use a lot of energy.

We get energy through digestion, and insulin is very necessary!

So where does your body get all of this energy from? Well, eating a healthy diet helps to provide your body with a great deal of its energy. The food you eat is broken-down into smaller parts like sugars, fats and proteins and other nutrients in a process called digestion. The broken-down nutrients are absorbed by the body, mostly in your intestine, and are then transported to every cell and tissue in your body with the help of your blood vessels. A special chemical helps cells absorb sugar from the blood stream – it is called insulin. Sugar is one of the main sources of energy for the body so without insulin, most of the cells in your body would starve!

Our body has a very careful regulating mechanism to deal with the amount of sugar in our body. Too much and too little can be harmful! Our body constantly decides how much sugar each cell needs, how much sugar to have on our blood stream for quick use and how much sugar to store for later.

The trouble with Diabetes: not enough insulin

Learn more about Diabetes here >>

In some cases, like in the case of Diabetes, the body does not have enough insulin. In this case, the cells can’t absorb sugars as well and the sugar level in the blood start to rise. The body gets tired, dehydrated and blood pressure lowers, and lots of other health problems can occur.

So what does all this information about sugar, metabolism, and its effects on health mean? Maybe you think that you should then just eat tons of sugar! But, if you gave a human being that much sugar their metabolism level would not be sustained and would quickly drop! But why? The human body has a very delicate mechanism that controls the use and storage of its sugars. Too much sugar can over-whelm the body’s ability to store and use sugar appropriately!

Getting too much or too little sugar both cause problems. But getting too much sugar is a more common problem, especially because sugars pack a lot of calories into a small bite so it is easy to over-eat them!

Some sugars are better than others

Contrary to what you may think, there are “good sugars” out there! Natural sugars are kinds of “good sugars” your body can easily store and use. They even have other health benefits like boosting your immune system, strengthening the power of your pancreas, and ridding your body of toxins that may make you feel sluggish and not healthy. These kinds of “healthy sugars” can be found in some fruits like apples, pears, and blueberries, vegetables and legumes like yams and beans, nuts, and foods containing whole grains.

So, Sugar and Sugar aren’t the same thing?

While there are many “good sugars” out there, you have to watch out for the sugars that aren’t so good for you! The main sugar to watch out for is called “refined sugar”. It is also known as “white sugar” and most people use it everyday! It is present not only in obvious foods like candy and soda, but also in other foods like breads, lunch meats, ketchup, canned vegetables and fruits!

So what does this bad sugar do?!

When a bar of candy is digested, white sugar is broken down by the body into very simple sugars unusually quickly. This causes a person’s sugar levels in their blood to rise drastically (hyperglycemia), and causes an equally quick response of big insulin-production from the pancreas. This uncontrolled production of insulin can lead to removing too much sugar from the blood! In this situation, the body gives order to release sugar that is in storage in the liver to replenish the sugar in the bloodstream. If these unbalances happen a lot, they can really wear out our sugar control mechanism! This can lead to health problems like diabetes and hypoglycemia, as well as a lot of trauma to the pancreas!

People with diabetes are prone to experience the sharp highs and lows described above, since the lack of insulin leaves the body in a state of stress usually with too much sugar in their blood stream. So, when a diabetic eats, their body will immediately have a harder time dealing with the added sugars.

The balance of sugar in your body is directly related to the kinds of foods you eat. A healthy, balanced diet lets your body have an easy time digesting and using its energy.

Review
As you read above, eating too much sugar (especially refined sugar) can have serious effects on your health and general well-being.



home | BioMedicine Movie | Regenerative Medicine | Education
About Us | Press | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

This project is funded by Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) award from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health

Regenerative Medicine Partnership for Education Copyright 2006
Duquesne University: Home, Mission, Programs, and Contact
Find out more about biology and health at www.sepa.duq.edu!