Like insulin, glucagon is a protein hormone produced in the pancreas. It is a counterbalance to insulin.
Approximately four to six hours after you eat, the glucose levels in your blood become reduced. This triggers the production of glucagon in the pancreas. When the pancreas secretes glucagon, it suppresses insulin.
Glucagon signals the liver and muscles to break down glycogen into glucose and release glucose back into your bloodstream. This keeps your blood sugar levels from dipping too low.
Although secreted by the pancreas, glucagon directly impacts the liver as it works to control blood sugar levels. Specifically, glucagon prevents blood glucose levels from dropping to a dangerous point.
It does this first by stimulating the conversion of stored glycogen to glucose in the liver. This glucose can be released into the bloodstream, a process known as glycogenolysis.
Secondly, glucagon stops the liver from consuming some glucose. This helps more glucose to enter the bloodstream, rather than being consumed by the liver, to keep levels stable.
Finally, glucagon works in a process known as gluconeogenesis, which is the production of glucose in the amino acid molecules.
In each of these processes, glucagon and insulin work together.
Insulin will prevent glucose levels from increasing to a point that is too high, while glucagon prevents it from dropping too low.
Glucagon production is stimulated when an individual eats a protein-rich meal, experiences a surge in adrenaline, or has a low blood sugar event.
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