T here is a good chance you’ve heard of blood sugar, that one must limit the intake of glucose and sugars, but you may not fully comprehend what it is or how it impacts your health. Here in this article, we will understand why it all matters so much to our health.
What is Glucose?
When we talk about blood sugar levels, we are referring to glucose, the chemical that provides energy to our cells and profoundly influences our health. The origin of glucose is the Greek word meaning “sweet.” It is a kind of sugar found in meals, and the human body utilizes it. Glucose is essential to the smooth operation of the body’s systems.
According to its origin, the sugar that we ingest is often classified as natural sugar or added sugar. When ingested directly from whole fruits like apricots and dates, glucose is called a natural sugar. Naturally occurring sugars are sufficient to fuel your body. They are digested more slowly, resulting in a longer duration of increased blood glucose levels. Added sugars are the ones that are added to foods or drinks during processing and preparation. These sugars might be natural sugars like white sugar, brown sugar, and honey or chemically created sweeteners (such as high fructose corn syrup).
But now, the question arises: What is the difference between glucose and blood glucose? Blood glucose levels represent the quantity of glucose or sugar in a person’s blood at any particular time, especially in the bloodstream. When we speak about “circulating” glucose, a given glucose molecule is never in circulation for very long since it is continually being supplied to cells and replenished. Average blood glucose is 0.1%; however, it may vary in metabolic disorders.
Glucose Utilization by Body.
In addition to fat, glucose is one of the body’s primary sources of carbohydrate-based energy. Our bodies need glucose to operate. It is especially important for our brain, which utilizes around 60% of the glucose that our bodies need. We acquire glucose from foods including honey, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. After eating, our body processes glucose. The pancreas, which generates insulin, plays a key role in glucose metabolism by releasing the enzymes that initiate the breakdown process. This ingested or metabolized form of sugar or glucose is then taken straight into the circulation from the small intestine, where it may be utilized for energy.
Excess glucose is taken from the circulation and transformed into glycogen, its storage form and is stored in muscle and liver. Your body has the capacity to store enough energy to keep you going for around 24 hours. Liver glycogen contains 100-120 g of glucose whereas skeletal muscle has 400-500 g more glycogen than the liver.
However, glucose does not necessarily need to originate from meals and drinks as already been discussed. Glucose is also produced by the body to ensure that sufficient amounts are constantly available. One means of doing this is by degrading glycogen to release the glucose it contains. Gluconeogenesis is a process through which the body (mostly the liver) produces glucose from sources other than carbohydrates. Gluconeogenesis occurs during fasting when glycogen reserves are depleted, and glucose consumption is negligible or nonexistent.
Recommended daily sugar consumption: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, added sugars should account for no more than 10% of daily caloric intake. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily added sugar consumption of
- 36 g or 9 teaspoons for men and 25 g or 6 teaspoons for women.
- Children ages 2 to 18 should consume less than 25 grams of sugar per day.
The concentration rises to 120–140 mg/dL within the first hour following a meal. The glucose concentration is quickly brought back under control by feedback mechanisms, generally within 2 hours.
Normal Levels of Blood Glucose.
The majority of the energy your cells need to operate comes from glucose, one of your body’s most important chemicals. Disruption of our glucose levels may create difficulties in any part of our bodies, from the skin to the brain to the organs to our neurological system, since it impacts every cell in our body. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is responsible for regulating blood glucose levels by drawing glucose from the circulation into cells for use as energy.
According to American Diabetes Association, blood glucose levels below 100 mg/dL are considered normal for persons without diabetes who have not eaten for at least eight hours (fasting). Two hours after eating, the typical blood glucose level for persons without diabetes is between 90 to 110 mg/dL.
Ideal blood glucose levels depend on a person’s age, the drugs they take, the severity and duration of their diabetes, and any other illnesses that may affect blood sugar. The following factors can drastically change the level of glucose in the blood according to many types of research.
- Variety & Quantity of Food: The kinds of food we eat can impact blood sugar levels. If we eat food that is high in carbohydrates and calories, our blood glucose levels might go up. Similarly, the quality of food can also impact the glucose level; the greater the quantity, the higher blood glucose can be.
- Dehydration: Your blood sugar will be more concentrated if you have less water in your body. The New York Times also reported in 2012 that dehydration raises vasopressin levels, which stimulates the liver to create blood sugar.
- Certain Medications: One may have an increase in their blood sugar levels with some medications, while others may experience a decrease.
- Physical Activities: Exercise has an effect on blood glucose levels. According to Harvard, working hard and long can lower blood sugar levels while doing nothing or very little physical exercise might raise them.
- Certain Medical Conditions: Hypoglycemia, diabetes, and hepatitis can all affect a person’s normal blood sugar levels. Sunburn has also been studied recently to change the normal blood sugar level. Sunburn strains the body and might increase your blood sugar.
- Stress: When there is a lot of stress or discomfort, hormones are released that elevate blood sugar levels and may alter glucose levels directly.
- Sleep: Reduced sleep is associated with elevated blood sugar levels. Even one night of sleep loss raises insulin resistance, which can lead to a rise in blood glucose levels. As a result, lack of sleep has been linked to diabetes.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol, especially while having an empty stomach, is never a good idea. Toxic low blood sugar might result from excessive alcohol use.
High or low blood sugar levels may suggest an underlying health condition. There are times when we don’t even recognize when our glucose levels are ideal. However, if they go too far from the standards, you’ll find that regular functioning is adversely affected. However, age is also a very big factor that can change the levels of glucose in the body.
Glucose and Aging.
The main factor that can cause immense changes in blood sugar levels in the body is age. We all know that like any other hormone, your body’s capacity to manufacture insulin naturally declines with age, making it more difficult for it to adequately handle sugar. As we become older, our muscles and other tissues become less responsive to insulin. This frequently results in an increase in blood glucose levels, which raises the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke. Remember that aging alters your body’s glucose metabolism, which is a contributing factor here. Glucose levels also fluctuate as a result of physiological variables that influence how the body processes carbs, lipids, and proteins as discussed above.
According to studies, the rate of high glucose and insulin levels in oral glucose tolerance tests increases with age. This test checks how well your body reacts to glucose. Sugar and insulin levels tend to be higher in older adults than in younger people. Higher glucose and insulin levels could mean that your body can’t use glucose as an energy source as well as it should.
Also, your kidneys may not be able to remove glucose from your blood as effectively as they once did. It starts a cycle in which glucose levels go up and more insulin is made. It has been well documented in studies that blood glucose level increases at the rate of 0.7 to 1.1 mg/dL every decade of age.
But as we age, the pancreas produces less insulin, resulting in a prolonged period of increased blood sugar. What is the meaning of this? Diabetic complications might develop as a result of insufficient insulin production and sensitivity. This may lead to major health issues if left unchecked. There are occasions when even if you don’t have diabetes, you may have issues with your blood sugar levels. Learn more about diabetes and how to control it if you have it in this dedicated article here.
The following table represents the normal levels of blood glucose in the body with aging.
|Adults||90 to 150 mg/dL (5.0 to 8.3 mmol/L)|
|13 to 19 years old||90 to 150 mg/dL (5.0 to 8.3 mmol/L)|
|6 to 12 years old||100 to 180 mg/dL (5.5 to 10.0 mmol/L)|
|Children under 6 years old||110 to 200 mg/dL (6.1 to 11.1 mmol/L)|
How to Track Your Blood Sugar Level?
Monitoring blood glucose levels enables one to assess if glucose goals are being met, hence reducing the unpleasant symptoms of high and low blood sugar. They are also monitored and are considered very important over time for diabetic patients. There are the following methods for monitoring blood glucose levels at home:
1. Blood Glucose Meter: A blood sugar meter is required for monitoring blood sugar levels. It helps you to manage your sugar levels without the need for frequent test visits. The meter monitors the quantity of glucose in a little blood sample, often from the fingertip, which is placed on a disposable test strip. But alternate testing site (AST) implies utilizing a site other than the fingers to measure blood sugar. This includes the palm, upper forearm, belly, calf, and thigh. According to the FDA, 95% of the time these glucose meters have accurate readings.
2. Continuous Glucose Meter:
These devices, also known as interstitial glucose monitoring systems, are integrated with insulin pumps. A CGM utilizes an under-the-skin sensor to detect blood sugar every few minutes. Similar to finger-prick glucose findings, they can reveal patterns and trends in your glucose levels over time. If you use a CGM, you must still test regularly with a blood sugar meter to ensure the accuracy of your CGM results.
These sensors are normally worn for a week or two before they need to be replaced. But a sensor implanted in the newest form of continuous glucose monitor may measure blood sugar levels for up to three months. A body-worn transmitter wirelessly transmits blood sugar readings from the sensor to a smartphone app. Some devices display your blood sugar level on a receiver, smartphone, or wristwatch and alarm if it rises or falls too rapidly. Others involve running the receiver over the sensor to check blood sugar. This testing is only used in the case of diabetes.
3. HbA1c Blood test: The A1C test evaluates your average blood sugar levels over the last 3 months. It is a valid biomarker and a good predictor of insulin resistance. Get an A1C blood test at least twice a year to determine your two- to three-month average blood sugar level. Learn more about this test and many other diabetes-related tests Here.
4. Touch-Based Glucose Monitoring System:
In the United States, an automatic blood glucose monitor is currently available after being tested. This novel technology enables automated glucose monitoring in a single step, without the need to carry lancets or test strips. Instead of drawing blood to test blood glucose levels, this uses interstitial fluids, as do others.
But what are blood glucose goals? A blood sugar goal is a range that you want to achieve as closely as feasible. These are common objectives as per CDC:
- Prior to eating: 80 to 130 mg/dL.
- Two hours following the beginning of a meal: Less than 180 mg/dL
Maintaining Balanced Blood Glucose Levels:
Your body uses glucose in a variety of ways, but if anything goes wrong, you’ll find out what occurs and how to fix it. Your blood sugar levels may be elevated, but not to the point where you are diagnosed with diabetes. Take a test like the one given by the Center of Disease and Control CDC to discover your risk factors for this problem.
Maintaining a stable blood glucose level is essential even for diabetics. Even if you don’t currently have diabetes, it’s important to avoid putting yourself at risk of having it in the future. The following methods can help you to avoid diabetes in the future.
- Reduce Weight: Obesity can become the cause of many underlying conditions including diabetes. Specifically, visceral fat – extra weight in the torso and surrounding the abdominal organs — is linked to insulin resistance, inflammation, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes risk can be reduced by losing weight. Researchers found that those who lost 7% of their bodyweight by a combination of exercise and dietary adjustments lowered their chance of acquiring diabetes by 61%. Exercise, nutrition, and weight reduction interventions lowered type 2 diabetes risk by 40% to 47% in a 2-year study of more than 1,000 persons at high risk.
- Log your Food: When making dietary modifications to avoid diabetes and to maintain blood glucose levels, it’s critical to pay attention to both the quantity and quality of the carbs you’re consuming. When you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels rise, which can lead to weight gain. The glycemic index (a scale from 0 to 100 based on how rapidly and significantly they elevate blood sugar levels after eating.) of a meal indicates how quickly this occurs. The higher the number, the faster your blood glucose levels will rise in response to the test results. Foods with a high GI such as pretzels, white rice, and white bread are not recommended. That is why always keep a log of your food and opt for healthier options like beans, legumes, fruits, and veggies. Numerous studies relate the regular use of added sugar or processed carbohydrates to diabetes risk. Furthermore, substituting certain meals with others that have a lesser impact on blood sugar may minimize your risk. (1) (2) This can assist maintain normal blood glucose levels.
- Eat Heavy Meals Earlier: Having a big, late-night meal is bad for your blood sugar levels. When you eat in the evening, your blood sugar will rise higher than when you eat earlier in the day. This is because our bodies grow more insulin resistant as the day progresses. Because of this, many nutritionists recommend eating larger meals earlier in the day and a smaller dinner at least three hours before going to bed in order to avoid overeating at night.
- Avoid Packaged foods: Your first nutritional step toward a better-balanced blood sugar level: eliminating (most) packaged foods and emphasizing high-quality whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and quality meats and fish. Observational studies link diets heavy in ultra-processed foods to an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes. The sodium, sugar, and salt content of sodas and prepackaged meals tend to be higher, while the vitamins and minerals tend to be lower. It is best to avoid foods and keep optimal levels of blood sugar levels. Also, it has been well documented in studies that the risk of diabetes can be reduced by cutting back on processed foods heavy in vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates, and additives. (2) A nutritious snack, such as carrots or grapes, can fill you up in between meals.
- Monitor Serving Sizes: To keep your blood glucose levels under control, watch how much food you eat. Overeating has been found to raise blood sugar and insulin levels in persons who are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. At home, use a food scale and measuring cups. See if the portion sizes given on the Nutrition Facts labels are appropriate for your goals. A palm-sized portion of beef equals one serving. Salad and casseroles are the sizes of fists.
- Vitamin D is Important: Vitamin D is essential for regulating glucose levels. Its insufficiency has been linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, according to research. According to research, supplementing with vitamin D may enhance several aspects of blood sugar control in persons with pre-diabetes, as compared to control groups.
- Include Omega 3 Fatty Acids & Glutamine: In a recent podcast by Andrew Huberman on sugar, it is known that including omega fatty acids for about 1-3 grams can cut the sugar cravings and helps in maintaining blood glucose levels. Also, there is a suggestion that glutamine may regulate blood sugar. Typically, protein is a macronutrient that prolongs satiety. We also know that protein helps reduce glucose levels. In research on type 2 diabetes, 30 grams of glutamine lowered blood glucose.
- Use Green Powder: Greens powders are the dry, powdered versions of different fruits and vegetables. Prebiotic fibers are occasionally used in specialty greens mixes. These superfood vegetables rich in antioxidants and slow carbohydrates are blood sugar-friendly. This may be new a new addition, but even if you don’t like salads, green powders can help you get some greens into your diet and maintain a healthy blood glucose level. Supplementing a high-carbohydrate meal with vegetable powder was found in a study to lower the glucose and insulin response in the short term.
- Exercise: We are all aware of the major benefits of exercising. If you spend most of your waking hours sitting down, you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, and it’s time to change that. Take a 30-minute walk, dance, lift weights, or swim five days a week for 30 minutes each time. All forms of physical activity are helpful in living a healthy lifestyle and controlling blood glucose levels. For this, research proves that brisk walking or running for at least 30-40 minutes four times a week can have a significant impact on insulin control and blood sugar levels.
- Quit Smoking: Type 2 diabetes has also been linked to smoking in studies. Smoking may raise insulin resistance and decrease insulin secretion; however, the processes are not entirely understood. Heavy, regular smoking increases the risk of diabetes compared to smoking infrequently. A study of 53,000 Japanese people indicated that diabetes risk lowers after stopping smoking. Ten or more years of smoking cessation may reduce this risk to the same level as individuals who never smoked.
- Reduce Stress: Cortisol, one of our body’s key stress chemicals, can raise blood sugar and insulin levels while we are under stress. Additionally, cortisol boosts the production of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger. Suppression of the hunger-inducing hormone leptin might cause you to feel hungrier. How to de-stress yourself? Read here.
- Hydrate: Both type 2 diabetes and latent autoimmune diabetes (LADA) can be exacerbated by the consumption of sugary drinks, such as soda and sweetened fruit juice. Sugar-sweetened beverages may raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18 percent, according to an analysis of studies. That is why by choosing water as your primary beverage, you can cut back on high-sugar options. By diluting the glucose (sugar) in your blood, drinking water can help lower blood glucose levels. The development of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) may be prevented by drinking four or more 8-ounce glasses of water per day, according to French researchers’ findings.
Blood sugar levels that are irregular or excessive can lead to diabetes and other issues. Here will be no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to achieving your health goals. That is why it is always advised that people should strive for blood glucose levels below 99 mg/dL. Consume meals high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and carbs; do regular exercise; be hydrated and well-rested; play about with meal composition; experiment with scientifically proven superfoods and supplements to keep your blood glucose level stable and to Prime with Time!