In Guide to Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load post we touched on glycemic index, glycemic load and how our blood sugar is influenced by them. Those changes in our blood sugar are also controlled by two main hormones, insulin and glucagon. Through this post, my aim is to briefly explain our bodies’ response to blood sugar changes and link it with the concept of glycemic index and glycemic load.
Insulin is a type of anabolic hormone (promotes anabolism) that is secreted from pancreas to lower blood sugar levels. Consumed carbohydrates are converted into glucose while we are digesting foods and results with an increase of blood glucose levels (1). In response to that, healthy individuals pancreas’ secretes insulin hormone. Insulin works as a key in our body by opening up cell doors and letting the sugar enter inside the cells. By that way, glucose levels on our blood stream is reduced and glucose becomes available for cells to be used as energy source. If our cells get saturated with glucose (as a result of excessive carbohydrate intake), insulin transports the remaining glucose to the fat tissue and stored as fat in our body (1)(2).
Glucagons’ mechanism of action is the exact opposite of insulin. After 5-6 hours consuming food, your blood sugar begins to fall. In reply to lowered blood glucose, glucagon is released from pancreas to increase the blood glucose. Basically, it breaks down the glycogen (storage form of glucose) from the liver and muscle cells to convert glycogen back into glucose with the intent of increasing blood sugar levels (1).
Insulin has a faster response to high glycemic index foods. After a short period of time consuming a high glycemic index foods, rapid increase on your blood plasma glucose levels signals your pancreas to release insulin. Your insulin hormone tries the best to carry glucose inside of your cells from blood. When it completes its mission, blood glucose levels go down fast like just as it increases (2).
In short, following a low glycemic load diet helps our body to regulate blood sugar levels through controlling insulin secretion. Eventually, the chances of experiencing food cravings, hypoglycaemia and blood sugar fluctuations can be minimized through eating low glycemic load/index foods.
1. Holst, J. J., Holland, W., Gromada, J., Lee, Y., Unger, R. H., Yan, H., . . . Herrera, P. L. (2017). Insulin and glucagon: Partners for life. Endocrinology, 158(4), 696-701. Aronoff, S.
2. L., Berkowitz, K., Shreiner, B., & Want, L. (2004). Glucose metabolism and regulation: Beyond insulin and glucagon. Diabetes Spectrum, 17(3), 183-190.