Side effects of glucose

How our bodies turn food into energy

All parts of the body (muscles, brain, heart, and liver) need energy to work. This energy comes from the food we eat.

Our bodies digest the food we eat by mixing it with fluids (acids and enzymes) in the stomach. When the stomach digests food, the carbohydrate (sugars and starches) in the food breaks down into another type of sugar, called glucose.

The stomach and small intestines absorb the glucose and then release it into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, glucose can be used immediately for energy or stored in our bodies, to be used later.

However, our bodies need insulin in order to use or store glucose for energy. Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels high.

How the body makes insulin

Insulin is a hormone made by beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells are very sensitive to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Normally beta cells check the blood’s glucose level every few seconds and sense when they need to speed up or slow down the amount of insulin they’re making and releasing. When someone eats something high in carbohydrates, like a piece of bread, the glucose level in the blood rises and the beta cells trigger the pancreas to release more insulin into the bloodstream.

See Illustration: How Insulin Works

Insulin opens cell doors

When insulin is released from the pancreas, it travels through the bloodstream to the body’s cells and tells the cell doors to open up to let the glucose in. Once inside, the cells convert glucose into energy to use right then or store it to use later.

As glucose moves from the bloodstream into the cells, blood sugar levels start to drop. The beta cells in the pancreas can tell this is happening, so they slow down the amount of insulin they’re making. At the same time, the pancreas slows down the amount of insulin that it’s releasing into the bloodstream. When this happens, the amount of glucose going into the cells also slows down.

Balancing insulin and blood sugar for energy

The rise and fall in insulin and blood sugar happens many times during the day and night. The amount of glucose and insulin in our bloodstream depends on when we eat and how much. When the body is working as it should, it can keep blood sugar at a normal level, which is between 70 and 120 milligrams per deciliter. However, even in people without diabetes, blood sugar levels can go up as high as 180 during or right after a meal. Within two hours after eating, blood sugar levels should drop to under 140. After several hours without eating, blood sugar can drop as low as 70.

Using glucose for energy and keeping it balanced with just the right amount of insulin — not too much and not too little — is the way our bodies maintain the energy needed to stay alive, work, play, and function even as we sleep.

Insulin helps our bodies store extra glucose

Insulin helps our cells convert glucose into energy, and it helps our bodies store extra glucose for use later. For example, if you eat a large meal and your body doesn’t need that much glucose right away, insulin will help your body store it to convert to energy later.

Insulin does this by turning the extra food into larger packages of glucose called glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles.

Insulin also helps our bodies store fat and protein. Almost all body cells need protein to work and grow. The body needs fat to protect nerves and make several important hormones. Fat can also be used by the body as an energy source.

How diabetes changes the way this works

With diabetes, the body has stopped making insulin, has slowed down the amount of insulin it’s making, or is no longer able to use its own insulin very well. When this happens, it can lead to several things.

For example, glucose cannot enter the cells where it’s needed, so the amount of glucose in the bloodstream continues to rise. This is called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

When blood sugar levels reach 180 or higher, the kidneys try to get rid of the extra sugar through the urine. This makes a person urinate more than usual. It also makes a person feel thirstier because of the water he or she is losing by urinating so much.

When a person loses sugar in the urine, it’s the same as losing energy because the sugar isn’t available for the cells to use or store. When this happens, a person might feel tired, lose weight, and feel hungry all the time.

Other problems caused by high blood sugar include blurry vision and skin infections or injuries that don’t heal. Women might have vaginal yeast infections more often.

When the body doesn’t have enough insulin to help convert sugar into energy, it often starts burning body fat instead. This sounds like it might work well, but burning too much fat for energy produces a byproduct called ketones. High levels of ketones can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be life threatening if not treated quickly. DKA is more common in type 1 diabetes because the body has stopped making insulin.

Keep blood sugar levels under control

For a person with diabetes, the main focus of treatment is to control the amount of glucose in the body so that blood sugar levels stay as close to normal as possible.

People with type 1 diabetes need insulin shots as part of their care plan to control their blood sugar levels. Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar levels with a healthy diet and exercise. However, many people with type 2 diabetes will need to include diabetes pills, insulin shots, or both in their diabetes care plans.

People with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes need to pay close attention to how blood sugar levels change at various times throughout the day in order to keep them as close to normal as possible. When blood sugar levels are close to normal, it means the body is getting the energy it needs to work, play, heal, and stay healthy.

Clinical review by Meredith Cotton, RN
Kaiser Permanente
Reviewed 01/03/2019

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in blood. The body gets glucose from the food we eat. This sugar is an important source of energy and provides nutrients to the body’s organs, muscles and nervous system. The absorption, storage and production of glucose is regulated constantly by complex processes involving the small intestine, liver and pancreas.

Glucose enters the bloodstream after a person has eaten carbohydrates. The endocrine system helps keep the bloodstream’s glucose levels in check using the pancreas. This organ produces the hormone insulin, releasing it after a person consumes protein or carbohydrates. The insulin sends excess glucose in the liver as glycogen.

The pancreas also produces a hormone called glucagon, which does the opposite of insulin, raising blood sugar levels when needed. According to the Johns Hopkins University Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, the two hormones work together to keep glucose balanced.

When the body needs more sugar in the blood, the glucagon signals the liver to turn the glycogen back into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. This process is called glycogenolysis.

When there isn’t enough sugar to go around, the liver hoards the resource for the parts of the body that need it, including the brain, red blood cells and parts of the kidney. For the rest of the body, the liver makes ketones , which breaks down fat to use as fuel. The process of turning fat into ketones is called ketogenesis. The liver can also make sugar out of other things in the body, like amino acids, waste products and fat byproducts, according to the University of California.

Glucose vs. dextrose

Dextrose is also a sugar. It’s chemically identical to glucose but is made from corn and rice, according to Healthline. It is often used as a sweetener in baking products and in processed foods. Dextrose also has medicinal purposes. It is dissolved in solutions that are given intravenously to increase a person’s blood sugar levels.

Normal blood sugar

For most people, 80 to 99 milligrams of sugar per deciliter before a meal and 80 to 140 mg/dl after a meal is normal. The American Diabetes Association says that most nonpregnant adults with diabetes should have 80 to 130 mg/dl before a meal and less than 180 mg/dl at 1 to 2 hours after beginning the meal.

These variations in blood-sugar levels, both before and after meals, reflect the way that the body absorbs and stores glucose. After you eat, your body breaks down the carbohydrates in food into smaller parts, including glucose, which the small intestine can absorb.

Problems

Diabetes happens when the body lacks insulin or because the body is not working effectively, according to Dr. Jennifer Loh, chief of the department of endocrinology for Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii. The disorder can be linked to many causes, including obesity, diet and family history, said Dr. Alyson Myers of Northwell Health in New York.

“To diagnose diabetes, we do an oral glucose-tolerance test with fasting,” Myers said.

Cells may develop a tolerance to insulin, making it necessary for the pancreas to produce and release more insulin to lower your blood sugar levels by the required amount. Eventually, the body can fail to produce enough insulin to keep up with the sugar coming into the body.

It can take decades to diagnose high blood-sugar levels, though. This may happen because the pancreas is so good at its job that a doctor can continue to get normal blood-glucose readings while insulin tolerance continues to increase, said Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder of Proactive Health Labs (pH Labs), a nonprofit that provides health care education and tools. She also wrote “Minerals – The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy” (Proactive Health Labs, 2016).

Health professionals can check blood sugar levels with an A1C test, which is a blood test for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This test measures your average blood glucose, or blood sugar, level over the previous three months.

Doctors may use the A1C alone or in combination with other diabetes tests to make a diagnosis. They also use the A1C to see how well you are managing your diabetes. This test is different from the blood sugar checks that people with diabetes do for themselves every day.

In the condition called hypoglycemia, the body fails to produce enough sugar. People with this disorder need treatment when blood sugar drops to 70 mg/dL or below. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of hypoglycemia can be:

  • Tingling sensation around the mouth
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • An irregular heart rhythm
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Crying out during sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Hunger
  • Irritability

Keeping blood sugar in control

Stephenson-Laws said healthy individuals can keep their blood sugar at the appropriate levels using the following methods:

Maintaining a healthy weight

Talk with a competent health care professional about what an ideal weight for you should be before starting any kind of weight loss program.

Improving diet

Look for and select whole, unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables, instead of highly processed or prepared foods. Foods that have a lot of simple carbohydrates, like cookies and crackers, that your body can digest quickly tend to spike insulin levels and put additional stress on the pancreas. Also, avoid saturated fats and instead opt for unsaturated fats and high-fiber foods. Consider adding nuts, vegetables, herbs and spices to your diet.

Getting physical

A brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can greatly reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.

Getting mineral levels checked

Research also shows that magnesium plays a vital role in helping insulin do its job. So, in addition to the other health benefits it provides, an adequate magnesium level can also reduce the chances of becoming insulin-tolerant.

Get insulin levels checked

Many doctors simply test for blood sugar and perform an A1C test, which primarily detects prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Make sure you also get insulin checks.

Additional resources

  • Mayo Clinic: Blood glucose Monitors: What Factors Affect Accuracy?
  • Oregon State University: Magnesium
  • American Diabetes Association: Magnesium Deficiency Is Associated with Insulin Resistance in Obese Children
  • Glucose Monitoring System Eliminates Need for Finger Pricks
  • Health Tip: Exercise Boosts Brain Metabolism
  • Drug Beats Steroids for Controlling Blood Vessel Inflammation in Study
  • Exercising Safely With Diabetes
  • Health Tip: What’s My Target Blood Glucose?
  • When Is It Safe to Drive With Type 1 Diabetes?
  • FDA Approves 1st Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Risk Tests
  • The Brain Can Produce Its Own Sugar: Report
  • Dealing With Diabetes Distress
  • Sickle Cell Trait in Blacks Can Skew Diabetes Test Results
  • Many Hospital Workers Are an Unhealthy Lot: Study
  • Dueling Quarterback Diets: Matt Ryan vs. Tom Brady
  • Bilingual People May Have an Edge Against Alzheimer’s
  • Timing of Your Meals Might Reduce Heart Risks
  • Mary Tyler Moore: Diabetes Patient and Advocate
  • Even One High-Fat Meal Can Harm Your Liver, Study Finds
  • High-Tech Blood Sugar Monitors May Help People With Type 1 Diabetes
  • Most of Canada’s Packaged Foods, Drinks Have Added Sugars
  • Could Mom’s Pre-Pregnancy Blood Pressure Predict Baby’s Gender?
  • FDA OKs High-Tech Diabetes Device to Help Replace Fingerstick Tests
  • Standing or ‘Easy’ Walks May Help Type 2 Diabetics Control Blood Sugar
  • Tracking Blood Sugar in Pregnancy Might Lower Heart Defect Risk for Baby
  • Health Tip: Creating an Insulin Routine
  • Daily Can of Soda Boosts Odds for Prediabetes, Study Finds
  • New Guidelines Urge Diabetics to Move More
  • Coffee’s Impact a Matter of Genes?
  • Are Vegetarian Diets Heart-Healthier?
  • Health Tip: Exercise Safely With Diabetes
  • Women’s Memory Advantage Might Skew Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
  • Is Web-Based Test for Prediabetes Faulty?
  • Children With Diabetes Can Have Bright Future
  • ‘Artificial Pancreas’ Approved for Type 1 Diabetes
  • Is Summer Peak Time for Diabetes Tied to Pregnancy?
  • Bodybuilders’ Steroid Abuse Linked to Pre-Diabetic Condition
  • Pilots on Insulin Therapy Can Safely Fly Commercial Planes: Study
  • ‘Glycemic Index’ May Be Too Unreliable to Manage Diabetes: Study
  • Older Drug May Help Type 1 Diabetics’ Heart Health
  • Deep Brain Stimulation Tested for Early Alzheimer’s
  • Brisk Walking May Help Ward Off Diabetes
  • Healthy Fats Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes: Study
  • Sufficient Sleep May Help Protect Men Against Diabetes: Study
  • Health Tip: When Your Blood Glucose Rises
  • ‘Hacking’ a Diabetes Cure?
  • Certain Steroids Raise Risk for Serious Staph Infections
  • More Evidence That Smog a Heart Threat
  • Child’s Obesity Tied to Mom’s Pregnancy Weight: Study
  • Could Infant Colds, Other Infections Raise Type 1 Diabetes Risk?
  • Take Precautions to Prevent Child Poisonings
  • FDA: 2 Diabetes Drugs May Be Linked to Heart Failure Risk
  • Evening Snacking Might Raise Odds for Breast Cancer’s Return
  • Type 1 Diabetes Linked to Epilepsy Risk, Study Suggests
  • Kids’ Fruit Drinks, Juices Contain Day’s Worth of Sugar
  • Hormone Exposure in Womb May Boost Later Type 2 Diabetes Risk
  • A Wearable Patch Might Help Manage Diabetes Painlessly
  • Mom’s Weight, Blood Sugar Levels May Affect Newborn’s Size
  • Are Women the Key to Unlocking Alzheimer’s?
  • Women’s Heart Attacks Are Different Than Men’s, Experts Stress
  • Catch-Up Sleep May Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Risk Tied to Sleep Loss: Study
  • Scientists Identify Sugar-Busting Enzyme in Rats
  • High Blood Sugar May Increase Heart Attack Complications: Study
  • Artificial Pancreas to Get Long-Term ‘Real-Life’ Trial
  • Diabetic Kidney Damage May Start Earlier Than Thought
  • Type 2 Diabetes May Raise Dementia Risk, Especially in Women: Study
  • Infant Weight Gain Linked to Possible Type 1 Diabetes Risk
  • Could Energy Drink ‘Shots’ Raise Teens’ Diabetes Risk?
  • New Diabetes Cases Among Americans Drop for First Time in Decades: CDC
  • Metformin May Not Help Obese Teens With Type 1 Diabetes
  • One Person’s ‘Healthy’ May Be Another’s Junk Food
  • Type 1 Diabetes: An Unrelenting Disease
  • Despite Advances, Type 2 Diabetics Still Face Elevated Death Risk: Study
  • Cutting Sugar From Diet Boosts Kids’ Health Immediately: Study
  • U.S. Task Force Urges Broader Screening for Type 2 Diabetes
  • Health Tip: How Foods Impact Glycemic Index
  • Infant Heart Defect May Be Linked to Pre-Diabetic Sugar Levels in Pregnancy
  • Sweetened Drinks May Damage Heart, Review Finds
  • Taking Blood Pressure Drugs at Night May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
  • Artificial Pancreas Works Well in Home Trial
  • Very High-Calorie Diets Show How Overeating May Lead to Diabetes
  • Short, Intense Workouts May Help Hearts of Type 2 Diabetics
  • Diabetes a Concern for Half of Americans
  • Brief Drop in Blood Sugar at Birth Tied to Poorer School Performance
  • Insulin Pumps Nearly Halve Risk of Heart Disease Death for Type 1 Diabetics
  • Just 1 in 3 Seniors With Diabetes Has Disease Under Control
  • High Blood Sugar May Boost Alzheimer’s Risk
  • High Soda Intake May Boost Diabetes Risk, Even Without Obesity
  • Health Tip: Controlling Diabetes During Hot Weather
  • Any Added Sugar Is Bad Sugar, Some Experts Contend
  • World’s Population Is Getting Sicker, Study Shows
  • Could Diabetes Run in Your Relationship?
  • FDA Issues Warning for Type 2 Diabetes Drugs
  • It May Soon Be Possible to Easily ‘Brew’ Narcotics
  • Your Plate May Hold the Key to Alzheimer’s
  • Better Diabetes Blood Sugar Management Leads to Fewer Eye Surgeries
  • Health Tip: Diabetics Who Compete
  • Could the Future Be Finger-Stick Free for Diabetics?
  • Mom’s Age at Childbirth Tied to Son’s Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  • Nuts, Fat, Added Sugars: New Research
  • Low Levels of Vitamin D Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Risk
  • Minority Kids Less Likely to Get Latest Type 1 Diabetes Treatments, Study Finds
  • 1 in 5 Younger Diabetics Lacks Good Medical Care, Study Says
  • An Optimistic Outlook May Be Good for Your Heart
  • Are Seniors With Diabetes Overtreated?
  • Cooler Temps May Boost Calorie-Burning ‘Brown Fat,’ Mouse Study Suggests
  • Type 1 Diabetes Linked to Lower Life Expectancy in Study
  • High Blood Sugar in Heart Failure Patients May Point to Risk of Early Death
  • Diabetes May Affect Kids’ Brain Growth, Study Reports
  • Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Make People Hungrier?
  • Technology Helps Manage Diabetes: FDA
  • Better Diet, Exercise Can Prevent Diabetes in Both Sexes, Study Finds
  • Holiday Overindulgence Risky for People With Type 2 Diabetes
  • Type 1 Diabetes Lowered Survival in Study
  • Mom’s Weight Might Influence Baby’s Earliest Development
  • Gestational Diabetes May Influence Daughter’s Weight Later
  • Health Tip: Breast-feeding With Diabetes
  • Heart Bypass Patients May Not Need Tight Blood Sugar Control: Study
  • Bro Alert: Too Much Booze May Harm Your Sperm
  • Study Compares Insulin Regimens for Type 1 Diabetes
  • Genes May Make Some More Prone to Heart Disease When Under Stress
  • Diabetes Drug Metformin May Affect Thyroid in Some Patients
  • Artificial Sweeteners May Raise Blood Sugar Levels: Study
  • Could Artificial Sweeteners Raise Your Blood Sugar?
  • When It Comes to a Growing Child, the Brain Comes First
  • New Test Helps Diagnose Type 1 Diabetes
  • Healthy ‘Brown Fat’ May Cut Odds for Obesity, Diabetes
  • Study Links Shift Work to Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  • Protein Temporarily Reversed Type 2 Diabetes in Mice
  • Saliva Test Might Someday Replace Needle Prick for Diabetics
  • Aerobic/Strength Training Combo May Be Best Workout for Diabetics
  • Insulin Pumps May Outperform Daily Injections for Type 2 Diabetes: Study
  • Cooler Indoor Temps May Help ‘Good Fat’ Grow
  • Experts Revise Optimum Blood Sugar Level for Kids With Type 1 Diabetes
  • ‘Bionic Pancreas’ Improves Blood Sugar Control for People With Type 1 Diabetes
  • Blacks May Respond Better Than Whites to Diabetes Drug Metformin
  • Consistent Protein Intake Key to Muscle Strength, Study Says
  • Mouse Study Raises Possibility of New Treatment for Diabetes
  • Intensive Insulin Therapy Might Aid Diabetics After Heart Attack
  • Diabetics Fare Well After Kidney Transplants, Study Finds
  • For Many Men, Impotence Is Treatable Without Drugs
  • Low Blood Sugar May Affect Heartbeat in People With Diabetes
  • For Many Older Men, Impotence Is Treatable Without Drugs
  • Feed a Spouse, Starve an Argument?
  • Does Sugar Make Your Heart Sweeter?
  • Obesity-Related Enzyme Targeted in Mouse Study
  • How You Digest Carbs May Influence Weight Gain, Study Says
  • Insomnia May Raise Stroke Risk, Especially for Younger Adults
  • Diabetes Treatment Falls Short as Heart Failure Drug in Study
  • Cholesterol Levels Spike During Winter Months, Study Finds
  • Shivering, Like Exercise, May Help Boost Weight Loss
  • Blood Sugar Monitoring System Approved for Children
  • Smartphone Apps for Diabetes: Do They Really Work?
  • Chocolate, Tea, Berries May Cut Diabetes Risk: Study
  • Implanted Devices Might Someday Run on Energy From Nearby Organs
  • Farxiga Approved for Type 2 Diabetes
  • Health Tip: Take Care of Your Glucose Meter
  • Diabetes Drugs Affect Hearts of Men, Women Differently
  • Testing for Pregnancy-Linked Diabetes Should Be Routine, Experts Say
  • Needle-Free ‘Breathalyzer’ for Daily Diabetes Testing Shows Promise
  • Could Low ‘Brown Fat’ Levels Be Tied to Higher Diabetes Risk?
  • New Drug May Someday Battle Obesity and Diabetes
  • Scientists Report Transplant Advance for Type 1 Diabetes
  • Removable ‘Gut Sleeve’ Might Become a Future Weight-Loss Tool
  • Lower Blood Sugar Levels May Aid Memory, Study Suggests
  • Cinnamon May Help Ease Common Cause of Infertility, Study Says
  • People With Type 1 Diabetes May Still Have Insulin-Producing Cells
  • Big Breakfast May Be Best for Diabetes Patients
  • Gel May Offer Simple Treatment for Newborns With Low Blood Sugar
  • Common Diabetes Drugs May Carry Risk, Study Suggests
  • Study May Help Explain Delay of Heart Disease in Women
  • Psoriasis Drug May Help Treat Type 1 Diabetes: Report
  • Blood ‘Marker’ May Predict Diabetes Risk in Older Women
  • Weight-Loss Surgery Can Improve Long-Term Diabetes Control, Study Says
  • Cancer Drug May Be Helpful for Diabetes, Mouse Study Hints
  • Nearly 60 Percent of Uterine Cancer Cases Preventable: Report
  • In Type 2 Diabetes, Gut May ‘Taste’ Sugar Differently
  • Antipsychotic Drugs May Triple Kids’ Diabetes Risk, Study Suggests
  • Insulin Pumps Better Than Injections for Kids With Type 1 Diabetes: Study
  • Plastics Chemicals May Boost Kids’ Risk for Obesity, Diabetes
  • High Blood Sugar Levels Tied to Small Increases in Dementia Risk
  • Could Dietary Tweaks Ease Type 1 Diabetes?
  • Diabetes Doesn’t Seem to Affect Alzheimer’s Disease Progression
  • Early Diabetes Signs Often Missed in Alzheimer’s Patients
  • Diabetes Drug May Protect the Brain
  • Exercise Up in U.S., But So Is Obesity: Report
  • Breast Milk Supply May Be Linked to Insulin Production: Study
  • Pain Reliever Lowers Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetics, Study Says
  • Vaccine May Stop Immune Attack in Type 1 Diabetes, Study Suggests
  • Sex Change Hormonal Therapy Deemed Safe
  • A Deadly Form of Diabetes That Doctors Sometimes Miss
  • Skipping Breakfast May Raise Diabetes Risk
  • Short Strolls After Meals May Lower Diabetes Risk
  • FDA Mulls Lifting Tight Safety Limits on Diabetes Drug Avandia
  • Weight-Loss Surgery May Help Moderately Obese, Too
  • Statins May Hamper Workout Results
  • Fish Oil Pills Might Cut Diabetes Risk, Researchers Say
  • Depression May Raise Low Blood Sugar Risk in Diabetics
  • Metformin Won’t Aid Breast Cancer Survival in Diabetics
  • New Diabetes Drug Expected This Week
  • Could Coffee Bean Extract Help Control Blood Sugar?
  • FDA Approves 1st in New Class of Type 2 Diabetes Drugs
  • Health Tip: Prevent Low Blood Sugar
  • Drug May Ease Angina in People With Type 2 Diabetes
  • Mini-Organ Would Mimic Pancreas to Treat Type 1 Diabetes
  • Diabetes Doesn’t Seem to Raise Risks After Knee Replacement
  • Artificial Pancreas Worked Overnight on Kids With Type 1 Diabetes
  • Newest Diabetes Drugs Linked to Higher Pancreatitis Risk
  • 1 in 8 Americans Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes: Poll
  • Obese Black Women at Higher Risk for Having Very Large Babies
  • Lucky Dogs Get Shot at Diabetes Cure
  • For Diabetes: BP, Cholesterol Key v. Heart Disease
  • Fructose May Affect Hunger Cues
  • New Diabetes Guidelines May Lower Patient Medical Bills
  • Saving Carbs for Dinnertime Might Help Control Weight
  • Study Links High-Fructose Corn Syrup to Diabetes
  • Airport Security X-Rays May Damage Diabetes Devices
  • Diabetes Prevention: Start Small, Experts Say
  • World Diabetes Day Designed to Raise Awareness
  • Popular Diabetes Meds Put to the Test
  • Health Tip: Monitor Your Blood Glucose
  • Foot Ulcers Tied to Increased Death Risk for People With Diabetes
  • Health Tip: Learn About the A1C Test
  • Exercise May Delay Early Aging of People With Diabetes
  • Sleepless Nights Might Raise Odds for Diabetes
  • Fungal Meningitis Q&A
  • Interval Training Burns More Calories in Less Time
  • Diabetes Patients Should Have More Voice in Treatment: Experts
  • Diets High in Fructose May Harm Liver in Some, Scientists Warn
  • Scientists ID Gene for Insulin Sensitivity
  • Hispanics May Face Higher Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: Study
  • Tight Blood Sugar Control Won’t Help Babies After Heart Surgery
  • Low-Cal Diets Kept Monkeys Healthier, But Didn’t Lengthen Lives
  • Health Tip: On the Go With Diabetes
  • Confusion Over Diabetes Types Adds to Patients’ Woes
  • Obesity in Middle Age Tied to More Rapid Mental Decline: Study
  • FDA OKs Generic Actos for Type 2 Diabetes
  • Scientists ID New Gene Regions Linked to Type 2 Diabetes
  • Statin Diabetes Risk Limited to Those at High Risk
  • Hormone May Boost Aging, Failing Brains
  • Modest Weight Loss Can Reap Prolonged Health Benefits
  • Curry Compound May Lower Diabetes Risk
  • Health Tip: Is My Blood Glucose Too Low?
  • Health Tip: Help Prevent Low Blood Sugar
  • New Devices Improve Diabetes Control
  • Sugar Substitutes Can Lead to Weight Loss
  • Another Study Links Diabetes Drug Actos to Bladder Cancer
  • It’s Not So Much the Heat, It’s the Lack of Power
  • Hot Flashes Don’t Signal Poor Heart Health for Most Women: Study
  • Teens’ Peer Problems May Affect Health Later
  • Pictures of Fatty, Sugary Foods May Spur Cravings
  • Weight Loss May Increase Testosterone Levels
  • Newer ‘Second-Line’ Diabetes Drug May Outperform Older Meds
  • As Heat Builds, Take Steps to Protect Yourself
  • Eye Diseases Rising at Rapid Rates in U.S.
  • Sleep Apnea May Spur Carb Cravings in Diabetics
  • Diabetes Drug Metformin May Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Older Women
  • Treating Prediabetes Might Prevent Full-Blown Disease
  • Many People With Type 1 Diabetes Missing Treatment Goals: Study
  • More Progress Made on Artificial Pancreas for Diabetes Patients
  • Prediabetes Linked to Higher Stroke Risk in Study
  • High Blood Sugar May Make Pneumonia Deadlier
  • Overweight Moms More Apt to Have Large Babies, Study Says
  • Death Rate Dropping for People With Diabetes
  • It’s Not Just What You Eat, It’s When You Eat, Mouse Study Finds
  • Diabetes Can Take a Toll on Your Emotions
  • Today’s Kids May Be Destined for Adult Heart Disease
  • Mouse Study Hints at New Path for Diabetes Treatment
  • Shift Work May Set Stage for Obesity and Diabetes
  • Mom’s Health While Pregnant Linked to Autism Risk
  • Improved Stem Cell Line May Avoid Tumor Risk: Study
  • Health Benefits of Chocolate Growing
  • Cardiac Cocktail Delivered by Paramedics May Save Lives
  • Both Too Little and Too Much Sleep Bad for the Heart: Study
  • Fatty Meals Could Trigger Inflammation for Diabetics
  • New Type 2 Diabetes Drug Helps Lower Blood Sugar: Study
  • Too Few Keep Heart-Healthy Habits
  • Type of Bacteria May Be Linked to Diabetes
  • Insulin Resistance May Lead to Kidney Disease in the Elderly: Study
  • Experimental Drug Shows Promise Against Cushing’s Disease
  • Health Tip: Diabetics, Take Care of Your Feet
  • Prediabetes Not to Blame for Nerve Damage: Study
  • Experimental Drug Shows Promise Against Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gene Might Boost Risk for Obesity
  • Switching to Water, Diet Drinks Linked to Modest Weight Loss
  • Study: Even Some Vigorous Activity Boosts Kids’ Heart Health
  • Short Breaks During Exercise OK for Diabetes Control: Study
  • New Scoring Method May Help Predict Stroke Outcome
  • Pancreas May ‘Taste’ Fructose, Hinting at Links to Diabetes
  • Being Fit Before Stroke May Aid Recovery
  • Type 1 Diabetes Treatment Disappoints in Trial
  • Too Much Fructose Sweetener Tied to Heart Risks in Teens
  • Many Docs Use Costly MRIs to Diagnose Nerve Condition: Study
  • Lifestyle Counseling Helps Diabetes Patients Control Blood Sugar
  • Weight Loss Surgery May Help Diabetes
  • Insulin-Linked Hormone May Also Raise Alzheimer’s Risk
  • Mom’s Poverty, Diabetes Might Raise ADHD Risk in Kids
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine Recommended for Adults With Diabetes
  • Health Tip: Diabetics, Pack Smart for Holiday Travel
  • Brief, Intense Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar, Small Study Finds
  • New FDA Guidelines for Testing Artificial Pancreas
  • Women’s High Blood Sugar Linked to Colorectal Cancer: Study
  • Vision Problems Decreasing in People With Diabetes
  • Sugar-Sweetened Drinks May Pose Heart Risks to Women, Study Suggests
  • Health Tip: Recognizing Symptoms of Hyperglycemia
  • Panel Recommends Hepatitis B Vaccine for Diabetes Patients
  • New Type 1 Diabetes Genes Found
  • Brains of Obese May Crave High-Calorie Foods More: Study
  • Low-Carb Diets May Improve Acne
  • Mom Has Alzheimer’s? Your Risk May Be High
  • Survey: Hospital Drug Shortages Hurt Patient Care
  • Nuts Good for Some With Diabetes
  • Exercise After Meals Helps Control Blood Sugar
  • New Drug May Help Treat Diabetes
  • Diabetes on Upswing Worldwide
  • Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Victoza Helps Type 1, Too
  • More Stroke Patients Get Clot-Busting Drug But Barriers Remain
  • Diabetes Costs Are High for Young People
  • Brisk Walk Can Boost Blood Flow to the Brain: Report
  • Periodic Fasting May Cut Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes
  • Why Some May Avoid Type 1 Diabetes Complications
  • What’s the Best Test for Children’s Diabetes?
  • Breastfeeding by Diabetic Moms Cuts Babies’ Obesity Risk
  • Fatty Liver May Be Linked to Diabetes Risk
  • Wireless Sensor Monitors Heart Failure Patients
  • Many in U.S. Get Unneeded Heart Screening Tests
  • Artificial Pancreas Could Help Pregnant Diabetic Women
  • Study: High-Fructose Diets May Raise Blood Pressure
  • How Red Wine Helps the Heart
  • Low Vitamin D Linked to Poor Diabetes Control
  • Infection Control Lacking at Surgical Centers
  • Sugar Water Eases Vaccine Pain for Babies
  • Concerns Raised About Drugstore Genetic Test
  • Dementia Risk Higher if Your Spouse Has Dementia
  • Prehypertension, Prediabetes Predict Heart Risk
  • Exercise During Pregnancy for Smaller Baby
  • A1c Test Identifies Diabetes, Heart Risk
  • Obese Children Twice as Likely to Die Young?

What is glucose?

One of the most amazing facts of biology is that all cells are built from the same building blocks. Whether it is bacteria or an ant, algae or a tree, a crab or a fish, a dog, a cat or even a human being, all living things have the same chemical building blocks from the same four categories: proteins, carbohydrates, fats and nucleic acids. All of these chemical building blocks are long chains of smaller simpler molecules. Carbohydrates are one such chain of simpler molecules called sugars, and glucose is a sugar.
There are many common sugars in our diet. The sugar in fruit is fructose. Lactose is the sugar found in cow’s milk. Table sugar is sucrose, a type of sugar called a disaccharide, which means it is composed of two simpler sugars: fructose and glucose. The main function of sugar in its simplest form is to supply a ready source of energy for the cell. Our bodies have evolved a very close relationship to sugar, and we know its taste intuitively as something we like. This is because to our ancestors, the taste of sugar was a sign that something was good for us. It meant that the food we were tasting was full of nutrition and energy. In its naturally occurring form, sugar is typically accompanied by fiber as it occurs in fruit and certain sweet vegetables. The problem with our modern diet is that sugar now is a signal for highly refined foods,usually low in fiber and often with very high and unnatural amounts of sugar. We’re tricking our bodies and ourselves. We (or the food industry) have taken a naturally occurring food (sugar) that we’ve had 40,000 years of evolution to get to know and like in its natural state, and turned it into something very toxic.

Blood Sugar and Insulin at Work

Blood Sugar and Insulin at Work

Understanding how sugar (glucose) and insulin work in your body is the foundation for knowing how diabetes works. By knowing what can affect your blood sugar levels, you can better manage it.

The basics of high blood sugar

Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood sugar (also called blood glucose) levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia.

When you eat, your body breaks food down into sugar and sends it into the blood. Insulin then helps move the sugar from the blood into your cells. When sugar enters your cells, it is either used as fuel for energy right away or stored for later use. In a person with diabetes, there is a problem with insulin. But, not everyone with diabetes has the same problem.

There are different types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. If you have diabetes—type 1, type 2, or gestational—your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use the insulin well, or both.

Learn more about blood sugar Learn more about insulin

Type 1

In type 1 diabetes, your immune system mistakenly treats the beta cells in your pancreas that make insulin as foreign invaders and destroys them. This can happen over a few weeks, months, or years.

When enough beta cells are gone, your pancreas stops making insulin, or makes so little insulin that you need to take insulin to live. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can also appear in adults.

Type 2

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the beta cells make extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in young people.

Some people can manage type 2 diabetes with healthy eating and exercise. However, your doctor may need to prescribe oral medications (pills) and/or insulin to help you meet your target blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a progressive disease. Even if you don’t need to treat your diabetes with medications at first, you may need to over time.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. For most women, blood sugar levels will return to normal after giving birth. And if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you will need to be tested regularly since you are at much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

So, what affects my blood sugar levels?

It is important to understand what can make your blood sugar rise or fall, so that you can take steps to stay on target.

Things that can make blood sugar rise include:

  • A meal or snack with more food or more carbohydrates than usual
  • Inactivity
  • Side effects of medications
  • Infection or other illness
  • Changes in hormone levels, such as during menstrual periods
  • Stress

Things that can make blood sugar fall include:

  • A meal or snack with less food or fewer carbohydrates than usual
  • Extra activity
  • Side effects of other medications
  • Missing a meal or snack
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages (especially on an empty stomach)

Find out about tests for diabetes

Glucose Screening and Glucose Tolerance Test

About 6 to 9 percent of women will develop gestational diabetes (GD or GDM) during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which is why almost all practitioners screen for it in all their patients.

Fortunately, gestational diabetes is also one of the most easily managed pregnancy complications. When blood sugar is closely controlled through diet, exercise and, if necessary, medication, women with gestational diabetes are likely to have perfectly normal pregnancies and healthy babies.

When a glucose screening is done

The glucose screen is usually done between week 24 of pregnancy and week 28 of pregnancy Some practitioners may test earlier if you’re at higher risk for the disorder, including if you’re obese, 35 or older, have a family history of diabetes or had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.

How a glucose screening is done

The glucose screening is simple, especially if you have a sweet tooth. First, you’ll drink a very sweet glucose (aka sugar) drink, which usually tastes like flat orange soda. Then you’ll wait for one hour before having some blood drawn and tested for glucose. Most women chug the stuff with no problem and no side effects; a few, especially those who don’t have a taste for sweet liquids, feel a little queasy afterwards.

How a glucose tolerance test is done

If the results of your glucose screening show elevated levels of glucose in your blood, it’s possible that you might not be producing enough insulin to process the extra glucose in your system. Your doctor may then order a glucose tolerance test. For this diagnostic test, you’ll be asked to fast overnight. Your blood will be drawn in the morning, and then you’ll drink a higher-concentration glucose mixture. Your blood will be drawn three more times, at one, two and three hours later.

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If a glucose tolerance test diagnoses gestational diabetes, you’ll probably be referred to a nutritionist for a special diet. You’ll also need to monitor your glucose levels at home several times a day with a special machine that uses a drop of blood (just one) from your finger to give you an immediate reading. If you’re not able to control the condition with changes to your diet alone, you may require medication, but chances are good you won’t have to go that route.

Risks

There are no risks associated with testing for gestational diabetes (beyond a tangy taste in your mouth!).

Glucose screening after testing positive for glucose in your urine

At every prenatal appointment, your practitioner will take a sample of your urine to check, in part, for glucose — a possible sign of gestational diabetes. If your urine tests positive for glucose and you have certain risk factors for developing gestational diabetes, or if your practitioner finds large amounts of glucose at any single testing, you may need to take a glucose screening earlier than usual.

If your urine tests positive just once, you’re not alone — it happens to roughly half of all women at some point during pregnancy. So don’t jump to diagnose yourself with gestational diabetes. Your doctor may consider it “medically insignificant,” which means it has no effect on your growing baby (and you don’t have gestational diabetes). More than likely, you simply indulged a high-sugar craving (Danish, cupcake, bagel, orange juice) shortly before your urine was tested, which can cause a positive glucose finding in both pregnant and non-pregnant women. This becomes even more likely from the second trimester of pregnancy on, when your body resists the efforts of the hormone insulin to transport all the glucose you’ve ingested from your blood into your cells (where it’s used to give you energy) in order to deliver glucose to your developing baby. Once you’ve both absorbed the glucose you need, your kidneys dispose of the excess through your urine.

How to lower your blood glucose levels

Even if you have a normal glucose screening and never test positive for glucose in your urine, it’s still important to control your blood sugar levels during pregnancy. To avoid glucose spikes and reduce your risk of gestational diabetes:

  • Cut back on “simple” or “refined” carbohydrates. Muffins, orange juice, sugary cereal and other sweet, refined carbohydrates are the culprits behind glucose spikes, because they enter your bloodstream quickly and are likely to result in extra sugar being filtered out through your urine.
  • Load up on healthy carbohydrates. “Complex” or “unrefined” carbohydrates — such as whole grain breads and cereals, whole fresh fruits and even baked potatoes (with the skin on!) — are absorbed more slowly into your bloodstream and are less likely to give you the large sugar jolts that can result in excess glucose filtering into your urine. In fact, since complex carbohydrates are more likely to boast a good amount of fiber, they actually slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. What’s more, they provide lots of essential nutrients for pregnancy (like folic acid, fiber and iron).

If your pregnancy cravings leave you with a hefty appetite for carbs (and let’s be honest, there’s a good chance they will), you can satisfy them while still eating well. A few ideas to get you started:

  • If you’re craving a banana split, think banana slices, milk and ice cubes whipped in a blender into a healthy shake.
  • Instead of a pizza slice, top a toasted whole-wheat English muffin with tomato sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese.
  • Rather than an extra-large orange juice, enjoy half a grapefruit drizzled with honey along with a glass of seltzer.

A little creative thinking can ensure months of yummy nourishment for you and your baby — and will kick off a lifetime of healthy dining together.

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I have been receiving emails from the #FoodBabeArmy about an alarming practice that happens at doctor’s offices around the country that needs to stop today.

First, however, I was thrilled by the news last week that Coke and Pepsi both announced that they’re (finally) removing Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) from their products – which includes Mountain Dew and Powerade. Of course these products are still no good for your body, as they are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, preservatives, phosphates, and artificial colors. Once consumers find out about these questionable ingredients, food companies have nowhere left to hide, but some remain in denial, I’ll get to that in a minute.

This is a great win for my friend Sarah Kavanagh, an amazing teen food activist (seen below) who started the initial Change.org petition, and also for the #FoodBabeArmy because BVO is one of the most harmful ingredients that is still being used in the U.S., even though it’s banned in Europe and Japan. It’s patented for use as a flame retardant!

It’s banned for good reason.

According to food chemist, Walter Vetter, PhD, “BVO can build up in the body and cause toxic effects”. Most shockingly, there is a published report of a man who had to undergo dialysis after regularly consuming large amounts of Ruby Red Squirt containing BVO. There is another report here indicating that soda with BVO caused the same condition, deteriorating a man to the point that he couldn’t even walk. Of course, these people were drinking an insane amount of soda (up to 8 liters a day), and the cumulative effects on your body when you consume fewer BVO-containing drinks is largely unknown because the research is scarce. Charles Vorhees, a toxicologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center agrees by saying, “Compounds like these that are in widespread use probably should be reexamined periodically with newer technologies to ensure that there aren’t effects that would have been missed by prior methods…I think BVO is the kind of compound that probably warrants some reexamination.” Out of the research that has been done, it has been shown that BVO accumulates in your body and is linked to heart lesions. As reported in Scientific American, “After a few extreme soda binges—not too far from what many gamers regularly consume—a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine”.

Given this evidence pointing to the dangers of BVO consumption, can you believe that it has taken SO LONG for Coke and Pepsi to finally remove it from their products?

There really is no excuse. Way back in the 1970s, the FDA began to question the safety of BVO and put the ingredient on “interim status”, which meant that food companies could use it in products until toxicology research was done. Well – guess what? Those studies have not been done in the last 40 years, so it has remained in our food – and the FDA has done nothing about it.

With the FDA asleep at the wheel, you will still find BVO legally in these drinks by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group:

  • Squirt
  • Diet Squirt
  • Ruby Red Squirt
  • Diet Ruby Red Squirt
  • Sunkist Fruit Punch Soda
  • Sunkist Peach Soda
  • Crush Orange Soda
  • Crush Peach Soda
  • Crush Pineapple Soda
  • Peñafiel Grapefruit Soda
  • Peñafiel Mandarin Soda
  • Sun Drop Citrus Soda
  • Diet Sun Drop Citrus Soda
  • Sun Drop Cherry Lemon Soda
  • Stewarts Orange ‘n Cream Soda
  • Diet Stewarts Orange ‘n Cream Soda
  • Stewarts Key Lime Soda

I found it incredibly disturbing that some of these sodas “comply with school beverage guidelines” and are being served nationwide in our schools. A member of my team contacted Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and was told they have no plans to remove BVO from any of these drinks because it’s “FDA approved” and has been diligently researched. At least we know the truth and will avoid these drinks at all costs.

Also, many store brand citrus sodas still contain brominated oil, so watch out for those too.

And we aren’t done yet.

There is one place where BVO is lurking that is reprehensible – and I knew that I needed to bring light to it. A drink containing BVO is being prescribed by doctors to pregnant women everywhere when they get tested for gestational diabetes – a routine test given to nearly all pregnant women in the U.S.

Check out the ingredients for the “Oral Glucose Tolerance Beverage” by AeroMed:

These drinks (also known as “Glucola”) are essentially sugar water with hazardous artificial colors and preservatives with a VERY LONG shelf life. They are no better than most sodas on the market – and truly not something you’d want to consume while pregnant. Yet, doctors routinely prescribe this non-carbonated soda to their pregnant patients, without taking into consideration the dangerous ingredients they contain. While it’s certainly important to monitor your blood glucose during pregnancy, there are alternatives to drinking this toxic sugar water.

Realize you have a choice – Simply ask your doctor what other options you have and if they don’t know, educate them!

The purpose of the drink is to ingest 50 to 100 grams of glucose, after which your doctor can test how your body handles influx of sugar. This woman was given the alternative of eating real food, such as bananas. This study showed that eating 28 jelly beans had the same effect on blood sugar in a 50 gram glucose test. Of course, you’d want to choose a non-gmo variety, free of artificial colors and other nasties!

An even better option that you can discuss with your doctor would be to avoid the test altogether and monitor your blood sugar with a glucometer throughout your pregnancy, as recommended here, here and here. This is the best alternative because you won’t create an extreme blood sugar spike, and can stick to your regular healthy diet. You will also avoid feeling like you are going to vomit and the dreaded “crash and burn” that women report after drinking glucola – including several Food Babe readers who have reached out to me personally.

As you can see, there is absolutely no reason that you need to consume these toxic glucola drinks. Now that you are informed, you can make a better choice for yourself and your baby.

Remember, I am not a doctor (take my advice at your own risk), however, in my opinion there is no way in hell any doctor could convince me to drink something with flame retardant, artificial dyes made from petroleum, controversial preservatives and GMOs, pregnant or not!

No, there is no risk.

On the contrary, if this test is not done and you have diabetes or glucose intolerance during pregnancy, you and your baby are at risk of developing long-term health problems.

In North America, most centers prefer that all pregnant women do this test. There are several factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. For example, as more women want to become pregnant later in life, age and weight are risk factors to consider. On the other hand, women with no risk factor can also develop gestational diabetes. This is why it is better to test all pregnant women.

The test, done between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, involves drinking a large amount of sugar (50 g). By analyzing the blood after drinking the sweet liquid, we evaluate the body’s ability to handle sugar.

Some people believe this test represents a sugar overload that is unnecessary for the body. In fact, this test contains as much sugar as 400 ml of 100% pure juice, a cup and a half of grapes or a medium iced cappuccino (Tim Horton’s). Many people consume similar amounts of sugar in their daily routine.

Without screening, hyperglycemia (high rates of blood sugar) during pregnancy exposes the baby to the following risks:

  • high birth weight (over 4 kg or 8 pounds and 13 ounces)
  • hypoglycemia at birth
  • jaundice after birth
  • a dislocated shoulder or other complications at birth
  • premature birth due to high volumes of amniotic fluid
  • a heart and/or lung defect.

It is therefore recommended for all pregnant women, whether or not they are at risk, to take the glucose tolerance test.

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