How hypoglycaemia is caused by chronic alcoholism

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K Rajakrishna's picture

The sugar glucose is the main energy source for all tissues. Glucose is derived from three sources: from food; from synthesis (manufacture) in the body; and from the breakdown of glycogen, a form of glucose that the body stores in the liver. Hormones help to maintain a constant concentration of glucose in the blood. This is especially important for the brain because it cannot make or store glucose but depends on glucose supplied by the blood. Even brief periods of low glucose levels (hypoglycemia) can cause brain damage. Two hormones that are secreted by the pancreas and that regulate blood glucose levels are insulin and glucagon. Insulin lowers the glucose concentration in the blood; glucagon raises it. Because prevention of hypoglycemia is vital for the body, several hormones from the adrenal glands and pituitary back up glucagon function. Alcohol consumption interferes with all three glucose sources and with the actions of the regulatory hormones. Chronic heavy drinkers often have insufficient dietary intake of glucose. Without eating, glycogen stores are exhausted in a few hours. In addition, the body's glucose production is inhibited while alcohol is being metabolized. The combination of these effects can cause severe hypoglycemia 6 to 36 hours after a binge- drinking episode. Even in well-nourished people, alcohol can disturb blood sugar levels. Acute alcohol consumption, especially in combination with sugar, augments insulin secretion and causes temporary hypoglycemia. In addition, studies in healthy subjects and insulin-dependent diabetics have shown that acute alcohol consumption can impair the hormonal response to hypoglycemia. reference: (accessed on 25-01-2011)

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