What is Glucagon?

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Glucagon refers to a type of hormone produced by the alpha cells found in the Islets of Langerhans—a part of the pancreas. This hormone induces the opposite effects as that of insulin, with which it works in partnership with to maintain the balance of blood glucose levels in the body.

One of its primary roles is for the utilization and regulation of glucose and fats. This hormone is released as a response to low levels of blood glucose, and also in cases wherein the human body is in need of extra glucose (e.g., vigorous physical activity or exercise). Once glucagon is released, it can cause glucose to be excreted into the blood by stimulating the liver to process the substance called glycogen. In addition, it can also stimulate the process called gluconeogenesis, which refers to the generation of glucose through the transformation of amino acids. Aside from the mentioned effects, this hormone plays a role in breaking down triglycerides into fatty acids so it can be used by the cells as fuel.

It was mentioned earlier that glucagon helps maintain the balance of blood glucose levels. Basically, this hormone is responsible for keeping the glucose levels high enough to make the body function properly. For diabetics, the existence of this hormone can lead to too much increase in blood glucose levels. Some of the possible reasons for this is that there is an insufficient amount of insulin in the body or the body does not respond adequately to insulin.

There are different kinds of prescription drugs which have been created in order to alter the release of this hormone in patients with diabetes. Basically, there are two kinds of medications for diabetes called incretin mimetics and DPP-4 inhibitors, which responds by inhibiting glucagon release and increasing insulin release. During extreme cases of hypoglycemia, glucagon may be given to patients through injection.

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