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February 8, 2011
The effect of insulin on various body tissues is interesting. Muscle tissue requires insulin in order to absorb sugar, which it uses as a food and bums to produce energy. Muscles are composed mainly of protein, which is constructed from amino acids. Amino acids may be thought of as building blocks for the production of protein. Muscle tissue apparently requires insulin also in order to use amino acids for the production of more muscle cells. If a person has severe diabetes and is not receiving insulin injections, his muscles will waste away because he is not able to rebuild the tissue, and furthermore, he will experience weakness because his muscles are not able to function properly without adequate food.
The liver ordinarily stores sugar in the form of glycogen. If the blood sugar level falls below normal (as would occur when a person is fasting or if there was an excess production of insulin), then the liver releases sugar into the bloodstream. The source of the sugar is twofold. Glycogen is broken down into glucose (sugar), and the liver is able to convert amino acids (the building blocks for protein) into sugar.
The liver will also release sugar (glucose) in the absence of normal amounts of insulin. Therefore, in the diabetic person, who has inadequate amounts of insulin circulating in his system, the liver will respond by increasing the amount of sugar circulating in the blood. Thus the elevated blood sugar in diabetics is caused by this liver mechanism, and by the tissues, mainly muscle and fat, which do not use up sugar as they normally would if adequate insulin were present.
Although fatty tissue is composed mainly of fat, it also contains a quantity of glucose (sugar). When adequate amounts of insulin are present, sugar is incorporated into the fat deposits of the body. If there is a deficiency of insulin, then sugar cannot be taken up by the fat deposits, and furthermore, the fat deposits break down. Thus, the diabetic loses weight, and he ends up with an excess amount of fat substances circulating in his bloodstream. This may be one reason for the accelerated development of atherosclerosis in the diabetic person. The excess fats may be deposited in the walls of the arteries, forming atheroma, or patches that constitute the disease of atherosclerosis.
Most persons who develop diabetes mellitus are overweight or have been at some time in their lives. This does not mean that every fat person will develop diabetes. However, if a fat person has a hereditary tendency to develop diabetes, the extra weight may cause it to occur sooner.