Seeing Food Causes Blood Sugar Response

If you’ve ever said the words, “just looking at fries makes my blood sugar spike,” you weren’t far off the mark. While you meant it jokingly, there was actual science behind your words. A new study has found that seeing and smelling food causes a short-term inflammatory response that leads to insulin being released.

The brain starts a host of actions for digestion. The order for the pancreas to release insulin goes out before you have taken the first bite of your meal because of an inflammatory response. Before this study, researchers knew that the pancreas released insulin before a person took their first bite, but not how it happened.

The smell and sight of a meal stimulate specific immune cells in the brain known as the microglia,” says study author Dr. Sophia Wiedemann. “These cells briefly secrete IL1B, which in turn affects the autonomic nervous system via the vagus nerve.”

That tells the pancreas to release insulin. For healthy people, this is a short inflammatory response. This system is overactive for people with blood sugar concerns, causing chronic inflammation, damaging pancreatic cells and making insulin regulation harder for the body.    

Our results indicate that IL1B plays an important role in linking up sensory information such as the sight and smell of a meal with subsequent neurally mediated insulin secretion – and in regulating this connection,” said study leader Prof. Marc Donath of the Univ. of Basel.

Understanding how this inflammatory response works and becomes overreactive may be a step toward new treatments for blood sugar concerns. When doctors understand the root causes of a problem, they can create new treatments, potentially even cures. We look forward to seeing where this research goes.

It can be distressing to read about research like it. We know our customers are doing their best for their health. To learn that your body may be working against you even when you are eating your best is hard to hear. That’s why it’s essential to speak to your doctor about your health plan and routine to ensure you’re taking care of yourself and doing everything you can to take control of your health journey. Not everything is within your control. But, knowing that researchers are working to find the underlying causes of blood sugar concerns is excellent news!

Banner image: Junior REIS via Unsplash

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