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Unit 3 - Insulin and Blood Glucose Control

The amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood must be kept within certain levels. This is the second of two GCSE Biology quizzes looking at how the body controls blood sugar levels with hormones, and it concentrates on how insulin is used to lower the amount of glucose in the blood.

Glucose is the fuel that powers our bodies. During aerobic respiration, glucose is converted to carbon dioxide and water to release energy in cells. If a cell is short of oxygen, anaerobic respiration takes place which releases much less energy from the glucose and produces lactic acid. The level of glucose in the blood can also effect the movement of water into and out of cells by the process of osmosis. This all means that the concentration of glucose in our bodies is extremely important and needs to be carefully regulated in order to keep the concentration within a narrow range of figures.

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After eating foods containing carbohydrates, the carbohydrates are broken down to glucose during digestion. The glucose molecules are absorbed through the wall of the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. This means that the glucose concentration in the blood will be a lot higher than it was before eating. Insulin is a hormone released from the pancreas and it controls blood glucose levels after a meal. When the glucose level in the blood is too high, this is detected as the blood passes through the pancreas. The pancreas then secretes insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin stimulates cells in the liver to convert glucose into the substance glycogen, lowering the concentration of glucose in the blood. Glycogen is then stored and can be converted back into glucose later if the level falls too low.

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas does not produce insulin or the body is unresponsive to it. Usually, diabetics have to control their blood glucose levels by diet and exercise together with injections of insulin. Diabetics use a small testing kit to take a sample of blood several times each day. They use this sample in a blood glucose meter to find their blood glucose level and can then work out how much insulin they need. Some diabetics wear an insulin pump which supplies the hormone at a low level continuously. This can be altered to increase or decrease the supply at certain times such as after a meal or during exercise.

Have a go at this quiz to see if you understand how the body controls blood sugar levels with insulin.

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  1. Insulin has this effect on blood glucose levels.
    Insulin lowers blood glucose
  2. Insulin is released when blood glucose levels are...
    A different hormone (glucagon) is secreted when the glucose concentration in the blood falls too low
  3. This is the target organ for insulin.
    Cells in the liver are stimulated to reduce the glucose concentration in the blood by converting it to glycogen
  4. Insulin is a hormone which means that it travels in the...
    All hormones travel in the blood to their target organ
  5. A typical situation for insulin release would be...
    After a meal, you will have digested your food and blood glucose levels will be increased. This is the stimulus for insulin release from the pancreas
  6. Insulin exerts its action by causing glucose...
    It is changed into a chemical called glycogen which can be stored. Glucose is a soluble molecule and cannot be stored
  7. Insulin is a hormone released from the...
    The pancreas is about 15 cm in length and situated between the stomach and the liver
  8. Diabetes can be caused by a lack of...
    Diabetics with type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin because their pancreas cannot make insulin
  9. This is the organ that monitors blood glucose levels.
    The pancreas monitors blood glucose and releases insulin or glucagon if needed
  10. Glucose is removed from the blood by being taken up into cells in the...
    The liver has many other jobs - it produces cholesterol, urea and substances that break down fats. It provides the body's storage device for vitamins A, D, K and B12 as well as the glycogen produced when insulin reduces blood sugar

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