Amylin is a peptide hormone, released by the pancreas in response to food being eaten. This hormone, which was not discovered until 1987, is released at the same time as insulin, but in different quantities. Its function is to aid in the digestive process by helping to control the rate of digestion.
The complete range of functions of amylin is not well known. Its main function has been determined to be to help to slow the speed at which food is digested and glucose is released into the bloodstream. It acts as a control for insulin, working to moderate the metabolism of glucose in muscle tissue that is stimulated by insulin.
Amylin is known to work with the brain during the digestive process. Part of its function is to help to slow gastric emptying and to inhibit the secretion of gastric acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes. This ultimate effect of the process is to stabilize the release of glycogen into the blood stream, preventing sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar.
When insulin is released into the blood stream in response to the ingestion of food, the ratio is about 1 part amylin to 100 parts insulin. When these numbers are out of balance, the result is health problems, particularly diabetes. The exact importance of amylin in diabetes is the subject of ongoing studies, though it is clear that the link is significant.
It has been discovered that people who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes have an amylin deficiency. Since amylin helps to suppress the effects of eating on the blood sugar, people without enough of this hormonal peptide are not able to keep blood sugar levels low after eating. It is likely that this deficiency is a significant part of the reason that people with diabetes have very high blood sugar levels after eating.
Since amylin is so important to the control of blood sugar, a lack of it helps to explain why even with insulin pills or shots, people are not always able to control their blood sugar levels, especially after eating. There are now synthetic versions of this important peptide, however, and these, in combination with other medications, are proving useful in the overall control of blood sugar levels for diabetics. Diabetics who experience blood sugar spikes right after meals despite the use of insulin might benefit from synthetic amylin and can discuss that possibility with their doctors.