February 6, 2012

The pancreas can taste sweetness

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Research has demonstrated why artificial and natural sweeteners are perceived similar to our taste buds but differently by our metabolism. But recent research shows that the pancreas can taste sweet.

 How does the body know the difference between real sugar and fake stuff? The real stuff evokes a rise in blood glucose and triggers a response from the beta cells to release insulin. How are the beta cells to know when it’s a false alarm and the sweetness is legit?

The long and the short of this question is glucose. Insulin is released based on the concentration of glucose in the blood. Glucose enters the bloodstream by way of the liver converting carbohydrates into glucose.

Before this study, scientists knew that fructose, a kind of sugar that comes from fruit, went to the liver where it’s converted to glucose. But the new data revealed that fructose also stimulates pancreatic beta cells directly.

This research sheds new light on the insulin response to glucose in the blood. It shows that the pancreas is able to sense fructose. You need not be alarmed. The fructose receptors of the beta cells work in concert with the glucose metabolic pathway and harmoniously mollify the rise in blood glucose.

However this finding does warrant the discovery of a diabetes drug. The researchers believe they may be able to develop a drug that takes advantage of the impact of fructose on these beta cell receptors and how to turn them off and on.

At the end of the day, the research does not advise people to eat less fruit. It does, however, lead them to deductively reason that mainlining fructose will not go unnoticed by the insulin producing cells of the body.  

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