Animation: carbohydrate digestion

View our animation of how foods containing carbohydrate are digested by your body into glucose. See the part insulin plays in helping glucose to enter your fat and muscle cells for energy production or storage.

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The mouth, stomach and small intestine all help to break down carbohydrates. Enzymes in the mouth and small intestine help to break down carbohydrates to make glucose.

Acidic gastric juices are secreted in the stomach, and digestion in the stomach begins. In the stomach, carbohydrate digestion continues until the environment becomes too acidic.

Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose in the small intestine and then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Glucose cannot enter fat or muscle cells because glucose channels are closed. So glucose cannot be burned for energy in the cells.

The pancreas detects an increase in glucose levels in the bloodstream and pumps insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin unlocks the cell’s glucose channels so the muscles and cells can take up glucose through the open channels.

The glucose level in the bloodstream falls as glucose is taken up by the body cells and muscles. The pancreas detects the falling blood glucose level and switches off secretion of insulin.

Glucose is burned up for energy in the body cells.

Last Reviewed: 21 April 2010
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References

1. Mayo Clinic [website]. Type 1 diabetes: causes (updated 2009, Jun 13). Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-1-diabetes/DS00329/DSECTION=causes (accessed 2010, May 25)
2. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse [website]. Your digestive system and how it works (updated 2008, Apr). Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/yrdd/ (accessed 2010, May 25)
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