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Pancreas Function

Function of the pancreas?

Pancreas is a (15~20)-cm-long tubular digestive gland, also called pancreatic gland, which is located across the back of the abdomen, just behind and below the stomach. The pancreas has two main functions:

What is the function of the pancreas?

The product of pancreas exocrine cells is the pancreatic juice, that is a clear, alkaline (pH 7.8-8.4) liquid of 1-2 L/d containing digestive enzymes, which can help the intestine to break down the food for nutrient absorption.

Protective functions of the pancreas: The pancreatic juice contains bicarbonate (alkaline) that can neutralize acidic liquid coming from stomach, so that it protects the intestinal mucosa to avoid erosion.

Digest foods for nutrient absorption: The pancreatic juice has digestive enzymes to break down the food and nutrients, such as protein, fat, starch, which are the three major nutrient material.

The above-mentioned functions of pancreas are both the exocrine function associated with intestinal digestion. In addition, the pancreas has another function - endocrine function, that regulates the blood sugar connected with glucose metabolism, as follow:

Pancreas releases insulin to lower the level of glucose in blood, and on the other hand, for the balance, it also secretes glucagon to elevate the level of glucose.

Pancreatic tissue damage or dysfunction

If the pancreatic function and/or tissues and cells are damaged, that will cause:


In some children and young people, the production of insulin stops. They get high blood sugar and can be life-threatening illness. These have type 1 diabetes, and they must be treated with insulin given in the injection form, as injections.

A person who eats a lot of carbohydrate food, will be able to "wear out" beta cells in the pancreas after a while (after a time). Amyloid protein produced along with the insulin namely amylin. Amylin can build up (accumulate) and form fibrils, so that beta cells may enter into apoptosis (programmed cell death). This may be a reason why beta cells of people with type 2 diabetes are unable to produce enough insulin, and glucose levels will thus not be lowered sufficiently. The insulin produced in people with type 2 diabetes, also has less effect on cells than normal. We say that they have insulin resistance.

beta-cell: a type of basophilic cell that makes up most of the bulk of the islets of Langerhans and secretes insulin.

Overweight people often produce insulin which works badly. We say that there is insulin resistance. Obese people may increase the production of insulin to compensate for the bad effects of insulin. This prevents the blood sugar becomes too high. Over time, however, this over-stimulation of the pancreas may lead to a gradual destruction of the cells that produce insulin. This increases the risk that the overweight will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.

Type-2-Diabetes occurs mostly due to a so-called insulin resistance, which means your body's cells with a reduced sensitivity to insulin, so that the insulin can not play the role of lowering blood sugar. A disturbed insulin secretion and previous overproduction of insulin causing an existing exhaustion of the insulin-producing cells are both responsible for type-2-Diabetes. This diabetes is the most common form, that makes up approx. 93.5 percent ratio and mostly occurs in adults. Obviously, type 2 diabetes frequently involves obese population and families, which indicate the risk factors related to familial predisposition and dietary habits.

Last update: 2012-04-13