Blood Sugar Regulation


In the interest of completeness, we’ll finish off the topic of sugar by discussing the concept of blood-sugar regulation. Basically, “carbohydrate” is a fancy word for “sugar”, as all carbohydrates get broken down in the body into sugar.

Even all those healthy vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus etc. get broken down into sugars to be absorbed by the body as fuel.

Maintaining an even blood-sugar level is critical for overall health, and many of today’s major diseases like diabetes and heart disease, are directly related to a lack of blood-sugar regulation.

The body is always trying to maintain homeostasis, and is only happy with a small window of variation in blood sugar. If we eat a very sugary snack without any protein or fat to slow the absorption into the bloodstream, the blood-sugar level quickly rises above the body’s comfort zone and the body responds by secreting a whole lot of insulin (your fat-storage hormone) to quickly take the sugar level back down to normal by storing the excess sugar that can’t be used as fuel, as fat.

Often too much insulin is secreted in the body’s panicked response to the sky-rocketing blood-sugar levels, and consequently blood sugar plummets too low, causing a crash in energy and a strong craving for more sugar in the body’s desperate attempt to bring blood-sugar levels to within normal limits. So, we reach for that cookie, and the cycle starts all over again.

Some people cycle between too high and too low blood-sugar levels all day, and this is extremely hard on the body. Over time, you gain fat weight because the cells of the body can only use so much sugar as fuel at a time, so insulin is constantly asked to convert the left-over sugar to fat.

More time passes and you become insulin resistant, because it takes more and more insulin to lower the blood-sugar, and finally the insulin stops working altogether, so your blood-sugar remains high, and you develop type 2 diabetes.

More time passes and you get the heart disease diagnosis, as the constantly high blood sugar makes the blood components sticky, and slowly destroys the structural proteins of the arteries.

It is important, therefore, to regulate your blood sugar by choosing carbohydrates that break down into sugar gradually. The best choices are organic above-ground vegetables, as they are full of nutrition, yet less starchy and sweet than the below-ground vegetables.

Whole grains like brown rice, millet, quinoi etc. that have not been flaked or ground into flour may also healthy choices for carbohydrate and some mixed types. (Read my tip on Customized Nutrition for more information on nutrition based on your own biochemical individuality).

Protein types tend to be very insulin sensitive and tend to gain weight on a diet high in grain, flour products like bread or pasta. Research by Jarvi et al. shows that once grain is ground into flour, even if the fibre content remains the same, it turns into sugar much more quickly in the body, so instead, choose flourless breads made of sprouted grain, like Manna or Ezekiel breads.

Consuming some quality protein and fat along with the non-starchy vegetables and whole grain is also very helpful in slowing the sugar rush into the blood. The more starchy or sweet the meal or snack, the more quality protein and fat is needed to balance it, so eat smaller quantities so you are not over-eating in the calorie department.

It is due to the problems of blood-sugar regulation that consuming products that contain straight sugar is such a problem for the body and should be avoided by everyone.

Alcohol creates an insulin response just as sugar does, so reducing alcohol consumption is also very important if you are trying to lose weight, avoid disease and improve your health.

To help you understand the studies below, high glycemic foods refer to foods that break down into sugar quickly, whereas low glycemic foods break down into sugar slowly.

Related Tips:
Sugar – The Disease Generator
Is going to bed too late making you fat?

Liu S, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, Franz M, Sampson L, Hennekens CH, Manson JE. A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71(6):1455-61, June 2000.

Salmeron J, Manson JE Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Wing AL, Willet WC Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women Journal of the American Medical Association 277(6):472-7, Feb 12, 1997.

Bryhni B, Jenssen TG, Olafsen K, Eikrem JH Age or waist as determinant of insulin action? Metabolism  52(7):850-7, July 2003.

Jarvi AE, Karlstrom BE, Granfeldt YE, Bjorck IE, Asp NG, Vesby BO Improved glycemic control and lipid profile and normalized fibrinolytic activity on a low-glycemic index diet in type 2 diabetic patients Diabetes Care 22(1):10-18, Jan. 1999.

Juntenen KS, Niksanen LK, Liukkonen KH, Poutanen KS Holst JJ, Mykkanen HM Postprandial glucose, insulin, and incretin responses to grain products in healthy subjects American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 75(2):254-62, Feb. 2002.

Schwartz JM, Lilnfoot P Dare D, Aghajanian K, Hepatic de novo lipogenesis in normoinsullinemic and hyperinsulinemic subjects consuming high-fat, low carbohydrate and low-fat, high carbohydrate isoenergetic diets American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 77(1):43-50, Jan. 2003.

Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.

Fallon, Sally and Enig, Mary; Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats NewTrends Publishing Inc., Washington, D.C., 2001

Mercola, Joseph, Dr. Total Health Cookbook and Program, Schaumberg IL, 2005.

Reaven, Gerald, Strom, Terry Kirsten, Fox, Barry Syndrome X, The Silent Killer: The New Heart Disease Risk

Rosedale, Ron, Dr., and Colman, Carol The Rosedale Diet HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2004.

Copyright Vreni Gurd 2006

1 Comment

  1. Meda Borba said,

    June 9, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

    Normally, your blood glucose levels increase slightly after you eat. This increase causes your pancreas to release insulin so that your blood glucose levels do not get too high. Blood glucose levels that remain high over time can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels.

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