Eli5 What is glucagon and how does it work?


Eli5 What is glucagon and how does it work?

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It’s a type of sugared jel that’s used to counteract very low blood sugars. It melts very quickly and is absorbed into the blood stream thriugh the muscus membranes in your mouth to increase blood sugar. Very low blood sugar can kill you and using juice or candy is not always possible if they’re almost unconscious as they may be unable to swallow and glucagon doesn’t require you to swallow.

Glucagon is one of two hormones that control blood sugar levels, the other being insulin. Both of these are secreted by the pancreas in response to the level of glucose in your blood. Higher glucose means more insulin and less glucagon while lower glucose means the opposite.

When you eat food, your blood sugar rises. Your pancreas senses that and secretes insulin, which causes insulin-sensitive tissues to absorb and use that sugar. As blood sugar levels start to fall, insulin production falls with it. At the same time glucagon production increases. Glucagon signals tissues that store glycogen (mainly your liver in this case) to start converting that glycogen into glucose.

Glucagon is *kindof* the opposite of insulin.

Insulin is a signal that blood glucose is too high, and that tissues should absorb more glucose to burn, to store as glycogen, or to convert to fat.

Glucagon is a signal that blood glucose is too low. It’s a signal to burn more fat and less glucose and to take glycogen that is stored in the liver and convert it back to glucose to increase blood glucose.

I say “kindof” because if you eat a high protein meal, the pancreas will release both insulin (to increase protein absorption) and glucagon (to keep the insulin from reducing blood glucose).