Glucose tracking: why balanced blood sugar can radically improve your health

Sync team
Sync team
May 24, 2021

Why Manage Glucose?

All our cells need glucose to function: it’s the brain’s preferred energy source, muscle cells use it for a quick energy boost and red blood cells rely on it exclusively to function. Glucose doesn’t just come from sugar, but foods rich in carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, and fruit. It’s then absorbed by our various cells, processed by the mitochondria and turned into energy in the form of ATP.

Our body is equipped to deal with moderate, steady glucose deliveries from food (and an increase in our blood sugar after a meal is perfectly normal!) But problems start when we get too much of it, just like giving too much sun or water to a plant will kill it!

Excess glucose means our bodies have to release large amounts of insulin (the hormone responsible for sending the message to our cells to absorb glucose). Eventually, our cells become overwhelmed and numb themselves to insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance and all the complications that come with type 2 diabetes (more on this later).  

But too much glucose is not the only problem. We also need to consider whether the foods we’re eating are providing us with a steady and sustained supply of glucose, instead of creating spikes and dips in our blood sugar. While it’s natural to have elevated levels and subtle drops after a meal, sharp spikes can have major ramifications on both your day-to-day and long-term health.

The Benefits Of Stable Blood Glucose

Elevated blood sugar and long-term, significant glycemic fluctuations can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, glycation (binding of sugar in our body to proteins which can age our skin), endothelial dysfunction, cell wall damage, and free radicals.

By keeping our blood sugar under control, we can all minimise the risk of such conditions and reap a number of tangible benefits. Here are a few:  

Stable energy

Ever felt lethargic after a meal? When you have a large glucose spike the accompanying insulin surge means your glucose comes crashing down. This may drain you of your energy and can cause anything from brain fog and fatigue to poor memory, low cognitive performance and everything in between. Maintaining steady glucose levels and avoiding too much fluctuation can help maintain steady energy levels.

Fewer cravings

A sharp drop in glucose often leads people to experience cravings for high-calorie foods – it’s the body’s way of seeking out more energy! By avoiding glucose swings, you can minimise cravings and ensure a slower return to hunger.

Improved mood

Unstable glucose levels are associated with negative moods and mental health symptoms, such as anxiety. Long-term glucose fluctuations may also be a risk factor for depression.

Improved sleep

Swings in glucose especially near to bedtime can wreak havoc on our sleeping patterns.  Unstable blood glucose makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Inversely, when you don’t get enough sleep your body becomes less competent at regulating your blood glucose, resulting in higher levels than normal. It’s a vicious cycle.

Long term benefits

Prevention of type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance)

The most commonly associated, long-term condition linked to high blood glucose levels is insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Every time you have a large glucose surge, your body releases insulin. Chronic spikes in blood sugar can cause the body’s cells to form a protective mechanism and stop absorbing insulin.  

Type 2 diabetes comes with a number of associated health conditions including heart disease, stroke, vascular problems, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye issues, and sexual dysfunction. Minimising blood sugar spikes throughout life will greatly decrease the possibility of it ever developing, and can even help reverse it.

Minimising risk of other chronic diseases

Prolonged high levels of blood glucose can lead to a host of additional long-term conditions, including heart disease and fatty liver disease, obesity, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s (which is being increasingly referred to as type 3 diabetes). By monitoring our glucose levels we can minimise the risk of developing these conditions.

So What’s The Optimal Glucose Range?

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.  Learning to keep your blood sugar in check is easier than you think. But first, what is considered ideal? A healthy range for non-diabetics appears to be a fasting glucose between 72-106 mg/dL and a post-meal glucose level 140 mg/dL or lower.

The real problem is that most of us don’t know we’re heading in the wrong direction until we get a formal diagnosis. More than 84% of people with prediabetes in the US are not aware they have the condition, even though it is entirely reversible and if not treated could lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

It can be argued that diabetes is a spectrum, so even if we’re not formally diagnosed, monitoring our levels and watching out for worrying peaks can help be a vital warning sign to tweak our diet and avoid developing type 2 diabetes.

Enter CGM: Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Most of us still check our glucose levels through standard blood tests, or the finger-prick method. While accurate, such tests only point to a specific indicator in time and won’t show continual data of the recurring, daily peaks that depending on how your body reacts to different foods and even factors such as stress.

But ‘continuous glucose monitors’ (CGMs), coin-size devices that are painlessly worn on your upper arm and measure your blood glucose levels in real time, are changing all that. The sensor takes readings of your blood sugar every 15 minutes, sending the data straight to your phone in the form of charts.

While the devices have been widely used by the diabetic population for decades, CGMs are gaining traction with the wider population and anyone wants to optimise nutrition, performance, health and lives! With the continuous, real-time feedback CGMs give, everyone can experiment with meals, food types and even meal windows to figure out what works best for each person and minimise the risk of a glycemic rollercoaster.

A New Era Of Personalised Health

Remember, what spikes your blood sugar may not spike someone else’s, there’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to diet (more on this in future Sync blog posts). The more you wear a CMG the more insights you’ll get about what keeps your glucose levels as stable as possible, and opens up exciting new possibilities about how to personalise our diets and optimise our health. Stay tuned!

References

Why Manage Glucose?

All our cells need glucose to function: it’s the brain’s preferred energy source, muscle cells use it for a quick energy boost and red blood cells rely on it exclusively to function. Glucose doesn’t just come from sugar, but foods rich in carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, and fruit. It’s then absorbed by our various cells, processed by the mitochondria and turned into energy in the form of ATP.

Our body is equipped to deal with moderate, steady glucose deliveries from food (and an increase in our blood sugar after a meal is perfectly normal!) But problems start when we get too much of it, just like giving too much sun or water to a plant will kill it!

Excess glucose means our bodies have to release large amounts of insulin (the hormone responsible for sending the message to our cells to absorb glucose). Eventually, our cells become overwhelmed and numb themselves to insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance and all the complications that come with type 2 diabetes (more on this later).  

But too much glucose is not the only problem. We also need to consider whether the foods we’re eating are providing us with a steady and sustained supply of glucose, instead of creating spikes and dips in our blood sugar. While it’s natural to have elevated levels and subtle drops after a meal, sharp spikes can have major ramifications on both your day-to-day and long-term health.

The Benefits Of Stable Blood Glucose

Elevated blood sugar and long-term, significant glycemic fluctuations can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, glycation (binding of sugar in our body to proteins which can age our skin), endothelial dysfunction, cell wall damage, and free radicals.

By keeping our blood sugar under control, we can all minimise the risk of such conditions and reap a number of tangible benefits. Here are a few:  

Stable energy

Ever felt lethargic after a meal? When you have a large glucose spike the accompanying insulin surge means your glucose comes crashing down. This may drain you of your energy and can cause anything from brain fog and fatigue to poor memory, low cognitive performance and everything in between. Maintaining steady glucose levels and avoiding too much fluctuation can help maintain steady energy levels.

Fewer cravings

A sharp drop in glucose often leads people to experience cravings for high-calorie foods – it’s the body’s way of seeking out more energy! By avoiding glucose swings, you can minimise cravings and ensure a slower return to hunger.

Improved mood

Unstable glucose levels are associated with negative moods and mental health symptoms, such as anxiety. Long-term glucose fluctuations may also be a risk factor for depression.

Improved sleep

Swings in glucose especially near to bedtime can wreak havoc on our sleeping patterns.  Unstable blood glucose makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Inversely, when you don’t get enough sleep your body becomes less competent at regulating your blood glucose, resulting in higher levels than normal. It’s a vicious cycle.

Long term benefits

Prevention of type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance)

The most commonly associated, long-term condition linked to high blood glucose levels is insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Every time you have a large glucose surge, your body releases insulin. Chronic spikes in blood sugar can cause the body’s cells to form a protective mechanism and stop absorbing insulin.  

Type 2 diabetes comes with a number of associated health conditions including heart disease, stroke, vascular problems, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye issues, and sexual dysfunction. Minimising blood sugar spikes throughout life will greatly decrease the possibility of it ever developing, and can even help reverse it.

Minimising risk of other chronic diseases

Prolonged high levels of blood glucose can lead to a host of additional long-term conditions, including heart disease and fatty liver disease, obesity, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s (which is being increasingly referred to as type 3 diabetes). By monitoring our glucose levels we can minimise the risk of developing these conditions.

So What’s The Optimal Glucose Range?

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.  Learning to keep your blood sugar in check is easier than you think. But first, what is considered ideal? A healthy range for non-diabetics appears to be a fasting glucose between 72-106 mg/dL and a post-meal glucose level 140 mg/dL or lower.

The real problem is that most of us don’t know we’re heading in the wrong direction until we get a formal diagnosis. More than 84% of people with prediabetes in the US are not aware they have the condition, even though it is entirely reversible and if not treated could lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

It can be argued that diabetes is a spectrum, so even if we’re not formally diagnosed, monitoring our levels and watching out for worrying peaks can help be a vital warning sign to tweak our diet and avoid developing type 2 diabetes.

Enter CGM: Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Most of us still check our glucose levels through standard blood tests, or the finger-prick method. While accurate, such tests only point to a specific indicator in time and won’t show continual data of the recurring, daily peaks that depending on how your body reacts to different foods and even factors such as stress.

But ‘continuous glucose monitors’ (CGMs), coin-size devices that are painlessly worn on your upper arm and measure your blood glucose levels in real time, are changing all that. The sensor takes readings of your blood sugar every 15 minutes, sending the data straight to your phone in the form of charts.

While the devices have been widely used by the diabetic population for decades, CGMs are gaining traction with the wider population and anyone wants to optimise nutrition, performance, health and lives! With the continuous, real-time feedback CGMs give, everyone can experiment with meals, food types and even meal windows to figure out what works best for each person and minimise the risk of a glycemic rollercoaster.

A New Era Of Personalised Health

Remember, what spikes your blood sugar may not spike someone else’s, there’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to diet (more on this in future Sync blog posts). The more you wear a CMG the more insights you’ll get about what keeps your glucose levels as stable as possible, and opens up exciting new possibilities about how to personalise our diets and optimise our health. Stay tuned!

References