Insulin Signals

Majid Ali, M.D.

Insulin serves myriad roles in the metabolism, cellular growth and replication, and vascular functions. These roles are served by the ability of insulin to send “signals” for cellular responses. Such insulin signaling include:

☞ Facilitation of the entry of glucose in cells;
☞ The breakdown of glucose to produce energy in cells;
☞ Storage of glucose (as glycogen) in the liver;
☞ Storage of fat in the fatty tissues;
☞ Conversion of glucose into fatty acids;
☞ Activation of specific enzymes involved with protein metabolism;
☞ Changes in vascular reactivity (compliance); and
☞ Management of energy reserves in the body.

Insulin awakens (activates) insulin receptors embedded in the cell membranes and leads to activation of internal cellular mechanisms involving a host of cellular proteins, such as glucose transporters. Insulin affects all cell populations of the body. However, the fats cells (lipocytes) and muscle cells (myocytes) are the two types that are most potently influenced by insulin. The fat cells store excess food energy for future needs, while the muscle cells are essential for all movements, such as breathing, heartbeats, circulation of the blood, and contractions in the alimentary tract. Together, the fat and muscle cells account for approximately two-thirds of all human cells.

In the minds of the doctors and the public, insulin is “good.” A lack of insulin causes diabetes. Injections of insulin save lives. Such simplistic thinking is the single most important impediment to clear thinking about the nature of diabetes and intelligent designs for its prevention and treatment. The dichotomy of healer-killer roles of insulin is seldom, if ever, fully appreciated by doctors. The reason for this is that doctors, with rare exceptions, do not test for defects in the fundamental cellular energetics. The possibility of de-diabetization, of course, is always rejected by diabetologists. Such superficial approach shifts the focus away from the crucial subject of insulin toxicity, a severe state that can be readily recognized with appropriate laboratory tests.



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