Home Nutrition Glucose (Blood Sugar) - Definition, Structure, and Function

Glucose (Blood Sugar) – Definition, Structure, and Function

Glucose comes from the Greek word “gleukos” which means sweet, delightful wine. It’s a type of sugar one get from foods one eats, and the body uses it for energy. It’s entirely possible to know glucose by another name: blood sugar.

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Glucose is crucial to keeping the mechanisms of the body in prime working order. When the glucose levels are optimal, it often goes unnoticed. But when they drift from recommended boundaries, one must always notice the unhealthy effect it has on normal functioning.

So what is glucose, exactly? This is the simplest form of carbohydrates, which makes it a monosaccharide. This means it has one sugar, and other monosaccharides include ribose, galactose fructose.

Glucose, along with fat, is one of the body’s sources of fuel in the form of carbohydrates. Glucose can be gotten from fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and bread. One needs food to create the energy that helps keep one alive.

While glucose is essential, like so many other things, it’s best consumed in moderation. Harmful glucose levels or out of control can have permanent and severe effects.

As it flows through the bloodstream to the cells, Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose from the blood into the cells to be converted into energy and for storage. People with diabetes have high and abnormal levels of glucose in their blood.

Either they don’t have sufficient insulin to move it through, or their cells don’t react to insulin as well as they ought to. High blood sugar for a long time can damage the eyes, kidneys, and other organs.

How the Body Makes Glucose

Glucose mainly comes from foods rich in carbohydrates, like bread, vegetables, and fruit. As one eats, food travels down from the oesophagus to the stomach.

In the stomach acids and enzymes break the food down into tiny pieces and ring the process, glucose is released from It goes into your intestines where it’s absorbed.

From there, it passes into the bloodstream, and once in the blood, insulin helps the glucose get to the cells.

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How does the body process glucose?

Our body processes glucose multiple times daily. When we eat, the body instantly starts working to digest glucose and enzymes begin the breakdown process with the help of the pancreas, which produces hormones including the insulin, that plays a vital role in the conversion of glucose by the body.

Some people, nevertheless, can’t rely on their pancreas to secrete insulin to dilute the increase of blood sugar when it’s released to the bloodstream. One way diabetes occurs is when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin in the way it should.

In this case, people need outside help such as insulin injections to process and regulate blood sugar in the body. An additional cause of diabetes is insulin resistance, where the liver doesn’t recognise insulin that’s in the body and proceeds to generate inappropriate amounts of glucose.

The liver is an essential organ for sugar control, as it enables glucose storage and creates glucose when needed. If the body doesn’t produce sufficient insulin, it can result in the discharge of free fatty acids from fat stores.

This can lead to a condition called ketoacidosis and Ketones, a waste product created when the liver breaks down fat can be harmful in large quantities.

Energy and Storage

A healthy human body is designed to keep the level of glucose in the blood at a constant level. Beta cells in your pancreas are responsible for monitoring blood sugar level every few seconds.

When the blood sugar level increase after eating, the beta cells secrete insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin acts like an opener unlocking muscle, fat, and liver cells so that glucose can get inside them.

Most of the body cells make use of glucose fats and amino acids which is the building blocks of protein for energy. But glucose the primary source of fuel for the brain.

Nerve cells and chemical messengers there need it to help them process information, and without it, the brain wouldn’t be able to function well.

After the body has used the energy it needs, the excess glucose is stored in little bundles called glycogen in the liver and muscles, and the body can store sufficiently to fuel for about 24hours. So a person has not eaten for a few hours, the blood glucose level drops.

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And pancreas ceases discharging insulin while the Alpha cells in the pancreas start producing a different hormone called glucagon which in turn signals the liver to break down stored glycogen and convert it back into glucose, which travels to the bloodstream to rejuvenate the supply until one eats.

The liver can also produce its glucose utilising a combination of waste products such as amino acids, and fats.

Blood Glucose Levels and Diabetes

The blood sugar level rises typically after one eats and then drops a few hours later as insulin moves glucose into the cells. Between meals, the blood sugar should be less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).

This is called the fasting blood sugar level. There are two types of diabetes;

  • In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t have enough insulin. The immune system invades and destroys cells of the pancreas, where insulin is made.
  • In type 2 diabetes, the cells don’t recognise insulin as they should. So the pancreas makes more and more insulin to move glucose into the cells. Until the pancreas is damaged and can’t make adequate insulin to meet the body’s needs, and without enough insulin, glucose can’t move into the cells. The blood glucose level stays high. A level over 200 mg/dl 2 hours after eating or over 125 mg/dl while fasting is high blood sugar, called hyperglycemia.

Too much glucose or blood sugar in the bloodstream for a long time can destroy the vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the organs. High blood sugar can increase the risk of:

People with diabetes need to test their blood sugar regularly, diet, exercise and use medicine to manage the blood sugar in a healthy range and to hinder the above-enumerated complications.

How do you test your glucose?

Testing glucose levels is particularly important for persons with diabetes. People with the condition are mostly used to dealing with blood sugar checks as part of their day-to-day routine.

One of the most popular ways to test glucose in the comfort of one’s home involves a straightforward blood test. A finger prick, usually with a small needle called a lancet, which produces a drop that is put into a test strip.

The strip is put into a meter, which measures blood sugar levels. It can usually give results in less than 20 seconds.

What are the normal levels for glucose?

Maintaining glucose levels is a fundamental part of keeping the body running effectively and healthily. People who have diabetes have to pay close attention to their glucose levels.

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Before eating, a healthy range is 90–130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). After an hour or two, it should not be more than 180 mg/dL.

There are a variety of reasons that can trigger one’s blood sugar levels. Some triggers can include:

What should you do if your levels are too high or too low?

In situations where the blood sugar level is too high, insulin can help decrease it, and for people with diabetes, too-high blood sugar is an indication that they may need to take synthetic insulin. In less serious situations, physical activity can help lower the levels.

One’s glucose level is considered to be too low when it’s under 70 mg/dL. This disorder is also known as hypoglycemia, and it is likely to be very serious, mainly when not managed well. Hypoglycemia can arise when people with diabetes skip their treatment.

It can also occur when people are eating less than usual and are excessively physically active. Eating a meal or drinking juice can help to increase glucose levels. People with diabetes also often take glucose pills, which can be purchased at a pharmacy.

Low blood sugar can result in a loss of consciousness. If this occurs, it’s imperative to seek medical care.

What happens if glucose levels go unregulated?

There are long-term effects for unregulated glucose levels, and it can lead to a variety of conditions, including;

 

  • Problems in the joints and extremities, especially the feet
  • Blindness
  • Chronic Dehydration
  • Coma
  • Heart Diseases
  • Skin Infections
  • Neuropathy
  • More severe complications can include hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome and diabetic ketoacidosis both diabetes-related conditions.

Takeaway

As with many medical conditions, early detection is vital as it’s easier to deal with blood sugar level issues before they get too complicated.

Healthy glucose levels are an important part of keeping a body working at its best; eating a healthy, well-rounded diet, complemented with exercise, is essential to keeping the body functioning at it’s best.

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People with diabetes should also monitor their glucose levels closely since the condition can increase the risk of glucose-related medical issues and complications.

Jennifer Aigbini
I am a language enthusiast, studying Linguistics at the University of Benin, in Nigeria.

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