Diabetes is a disease that involves an inability of the body to either produce enough insulin or use it efficiently to correctly regulate blood sugar levels. That is why diabetics must regularly monitor their blood sugar to ensure that it remains below 200 milligrams per deciliter when not fasting. If they fail to do that properly, they are at risk for big jumps in blood sugar levels and potential complications including damage to the kidneys, eyes, and nerves. But now, new research is offering evidence that these kinds of extreme fluctuations in blood sugar might be experienced by healthy people, too—at least with some people and in some circumstances.
The study, which took place at the Stanford University school of Medicine in California, found that blood sugar levels spike in some individuals who do not match the requirements for a diagnosis of diabetes and may even reach as high as the level that occurs in those with the condition.1 Hall, Heather; et al. “Glucotypes reveal new patterns of glucose dysregulation.” PLoS Biology. 24 July 2018. Accessed 29 July 2018. http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005143. These results are based on an investigation that included 57 men and women, ranging in age from 25 to 76, who had no diagnosis of diabetes.
All of the subjects were provided with a continuous glucose monitor to wear for several weeks. This device employs a sensor inserted beneath the skin to take blood sugar level readings every five minutes. Due to their round-the-clock capability, the monitors can help distinguish patterns in the rise and fall of blood sugar that most other tests cannot show. Once these patterns were identified, the researchers separated the participants into three distinct “glycotypes” that described their blood sugar fluctuations after food consumption into categories of low, moderate, or severe.
To further explore the differences in blood sugar spikes, the investigators initiated a smaller-scale study within the study. This included 30 volunteers who wore continuous glucose monitor devices but, instead of eating whatever they chose, were provided standardized breakfast meals to more accurately compare blood sugar changes in people consuming the exact same foods. Eaten twice per subject, these meals consisted of corn flakes with milk, a protein bar, and a peanut butter sandwich. Not surprisingly, the cereal with milk produced blood sugar spikes in approximately 80 percent of the participants.
This study is limited by its very small size, which makes it impossible to predict whether it would apply to a larger, more diverse population sample. However, it does build on our knowledge of blood sugar fluctuations and what types of foods are more likely to cause them. Beyond the more than 30 million people in the United States who have diabetes, an estimated 84 million are considered pre-diabetic. That means their blood sugar levels are somewhat elevated and they are already at increased risk of developing complications such as kidney damage.
Therefore, you might be considered healthy because you don’t technically have diabetes, but you’re still close to the borderline. What’s more, a 2005 study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland found that high blood sugar levels are linked to a higher risk of heart disease.2 Selvin, Elizabeth; et al. “Glycemic Control and Coronary Heart Disease Risk in Persons With and Without Diabetes.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 12 September 2005. Accessed 30 July 2018. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/486690?resultClick=1.
What can you do in order to protect yourself? There are many factors that contribute to diabetes that are within your control. Losing excess weight is very important. Exercise has been shown to help prevent diabetes and even reverse the disease in its early stages.
Diet is a key form of prevention as well. Not only should you carefully be reading labels and avoiding foods high in sugar, but you need to be aware of the high glycemic index foods that can make blood sugar levels spike, such as corn flakes or breakfast pastries. High glycemic carbs convert to sugar quickly in your body, leading to an abrupt rise in blood sugar. Instead, opt for foods that will provide energy and maintain steady blood sugar levels, including healthy protein, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, peas, and many fruits. You also might want to consider an herbal supplement designed to help smooth out the metabolic spikes that come from eating high glycemic foods. With some small changes, you may be surprised how much of a difference you’ll feel in your energy levels, and you’ll reduce your chances of developing diabetes in the long run.
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|1.||↑||Hall, Heather; et al. “Glucotypes reveal new patterns of glucose dysregulation.” PLoS Biology. 24 July 2018. Accessed 29 July 2018. http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005143.|
|2.||↑||Selvin, Elizabeth; et al. “Glycemic Control and Coronary Heart Disease Risk in Persons With and Without Diabetes.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 12 September 2005. Accessed 30 July 2018. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/486690?resultClick=1.|