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What is Blood Sugar? Understanding Diabetes!

What is Blood Sugar? Understanding Diabetes!
October 12, 2018 Nidhi Bansal
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Blood Sugar is the amount of Glucose present in bloodstream!

Glucose is one of the most simple forms of sugars as it is a monosaccharide. It is the primary and preferred source of energy for our body and brain’s cells and hence vital to our existence. In fact, our brain is one of the biggest consumers of Glucose inside our body. Our brain only weighs 2% of the body but consumes 20% of the energy as compared to the rest of the body for all its neural activity. Blood acts as the primary carrier for glucose and helps its transport to the cells, organs, and the muscles. In medical terms, amount of glucose present in the bloodstream is termed as blood sugar. Our body tightly regulates our blood sugar levels throughout the day as glucose is a key ingredient to our survival.

Glucose can pass through the extra-cellular walls to provide energy. It also participates in several biosynthetic activities such as the synthesis of proteins and fatty acids. At any time, multiple hormones are acting together to create a  series of actions in the body that allow us to

  • absorb Glucose from food,
  • transport it to the organs in need,
  • store the excess,
  • and release it in blood from the stored organs as needed.

Our body stores Glucose in the form of Glycogen (multiple Glucose molecules connected together) in the liver and the muscles and the rest is floating in the blood.

Carbohydrates are the primary dietary source of  Blood Sugar!

We receive Glucose through the foods rich in carbohydrates such as grains, vegetables, and fruits. Carbohydrates such as fibre, starch, and sugar are formed by the union of multiple Glucose molecules or of Glucose molecules with other monosaccharides such as Fructose and Galactose.

Breaking down of Carbohydrates to Glucose. Blood Sugar.

Picture Credit: Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates can be easily metabolised by our body, thus quickly releasing all the Glucose molecules in our bloodstream. This sudden dump can actually elevate our blood sugar levels temporarily and create a hay-wire in our bodily systems. While such spikes can be handled by our body but they put too much pressure on our organs that manage the blood sugar levels. In fact, too many and too frequent of such spikes put our body’s metabolism at risk and we get exposed to lifestyle disorders such as Diabetes, Hypertension, and Obesity. Highly processed foods such as white bread, white flour, white sugar, or sugar-laden foods are the primary sources of complex carbohydrates.

On the other hand, our body takes time to break down the complex carbohydrates. Additionally, complex carbohydrates contain additional vital nutrients that our systems need. Hence, a slow release of Glucose in our bloodstream along with desired nutrients such as Vitamins, Minerals, and Anti-oxidants helps our body to send the right fuel and nutrition to all the organs in need. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are classified as the sources of complex carbohydrates.

glucose-complex-carbohydrates-blood-sugar

Understanding the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load.

Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale from 0 -100 that is utilised to classify how a specific food product would affect our blood sugar levels. Low GI foods such as vegetables, lentils, and whole grains generally have complex carbohydrates. As they need more time for assimilation in our body, they are a much healthier choice.

Glycemic Load (GL) is a term used to measure the overall effect of any ingredient on the blood sugar level when one serving of the food is consumed. This is a better measure to understand the overall impact as it takes into account the quantity of the food item. For example, Sweet Potato can have a high GI but when one serving is considered, it will have a low GL for all the additional nutrients present. Hence, there is an overall positive impact on the body.

GI and GL though very popular nowadays, are fairly unrepresentative of the impact any food item can have on our body post-digestion. Additionally, this benchmark does not take into account effect on the body when different foods are mixed together or of different variations of the same food (regional, seasonal, or species).

Picture Credit: Cool Guides at Reddit

What is the Normal Blood Sugar Level?

A high blood sugar level is often a symptom indicating that the body’s functions are not happening properly. Diabetes is termed as a state where your blood sugar levels stay much higher than normal for a prolonged period i.e. over a couple of months. Chronically high blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia indicate metabolic disorders, which result in high amounts of Glucose in the bloodstream. Since the body’s function to regulate the glucose level is not working properly; it is quite often that Diabetic patients face low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia as well. Hence, one needs to be watchful of their diet and physical activity.

Normal Levels

For a healthy adult weighing approximately 70 Kg, around 4g Glucose is present in the bloodstream. This is translated as a regular blood sugar level in the range of 100 – 130 mg/DL.

At high risk of Diabetes

If your reading is over and above 180 mg/DL on a consistent basis (an interval of 2-3 months), then you will be prone to Diabetes and hence need to be extra careful on your diet, stress levels, and lifestyle.

Dangerous

If your reading is in the range of 300 mg/DL or more, then is considered dangerous and requires the immediate attention of a qualified medical professional.


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