Glucose and its impact on the human body

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Overview

National Institute of Nutrition, in its dietary guidelines, recommends added sugar intake to be less than 10% or 100 calories of total daily calories, which is about 6 spoons/24 grams. The average Indian consumes over 300 calories per day from sugar.  

That is roughly about 80 grams or 20 teaspoons daily. Teens and men have reported consuming the highest sugar intake.  

It is key to understand the role sugar plays in our bodies. Carbohydrates and sugar break down to produce glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, bread, potatoes, corn, beans, peas, vegetables, soft drinks, etc.  

Glucose can also be produced in our body from fat and protein during periods of low carbohydrate intake or intense exercise. Glucose reaches the body’s cells, turning to energy to carry out many significant functions of the body, such as muscle contraction and temperature regulation.  

While some organs use protein and fat as a source of energy, the red blood cells and the brain use glucose for energy. Hence, a certain amount of carbohydrate intake is essential for proper brain and bodily functions.

Does Type of Carbohydrate Make a Difference?

Our daily carbohydrate intake determines and impacts blood sugar levels. Simple carbohydrates like table sugar, honey, jams or jellies, fruit juices or soft drinks, chocolates, candies, etc., are easily digestible products that can increase blood sugar levels rapidly.  

Foods such as whole grains, green veggies, beans, lentils, etc., are sources of complex carbohydrates. These foods take longer to digest and make a slow or normal rise in blood glucose levels, which is preferable.  

A rapid increase in blood sugar causes a quick spike in insulin, the hormone in control of allowing glucose to enter cells. High insulin levels quickly bring down glucose levels, making a person feel hungry again, prompting them to take in more calories.  

High insulin levels can also make cells more resistant to insulin, so glucose levels stay higher for longer periods. Diabetes and Heart disease risk increases with high blood sugar levels, overweight/obesity, and inactivity.  

Diabetes and obesity have been associated with liver, pancreas, endometrium, colon and rectum and bladder cancers. To help reduce the risk of Type 2-Diabetes and heart disease and help with weight management, doctors and dieticians suggest following a low-glycemic index diet.  

A Closer Look at the Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a grading of foods on a scale of 0-100 according to how much they increase blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI are digested rapidly and quickly improve blood sugar levels. In contrast, foods with low GI rates are slowly digested and gradually spike blood glucose and insulin levels.

Products containing sugar, syrup, molasses, and most hidden sugars usually have a high-GI rate. The lower the food is processed, the lower the GI. These foods typically contain more fibre, which delays digestion and is rich in vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.  

Sugary beverages like treated fizzy drinks, energy or sports drinks and sweetened tea/coffee fall under high GI items. Drinking these drinks can often result in weight gain since they contain many calories.

Here are some of the healthier beverage options for you

  • Water
  • Tea without sugar
  • Vegetable juices
  • Milk  

Milk contains natural sugars which are low in GI and contain other nutrients. Always go for whole fruits instead of juice and choose vegetables as they offer more fibre. More fibre in your diet produces lower blood sugar and helps you to feel full for more time, better than juice forms.

A word about artificial sugars

Many “diet” or “low-calorie” products substitute calorie-free artificial sweeteners for natural sugar because they don’t have any nutritional value. Artificial sugars can help immensely with weight control and Diabetes since these products are usually low-calorie and do not increase blood sugar levels.

However, it is also heard that consumption of artificial sugars may be related to weight gain because they can cause a pseudo-effect that produces insulin into the blood as the body believes glucose levels will be high.  

With no glucose consumed, the body may feel hungry and prompt to eat more to recharge that glucose.  

Managing your sugar levels

Maintain a healthy weight 

Reduce excessive abdominal fat to have normal insulin resistance, thereby reducing the risk of Diabetes and heart disease.  

Get up and move  

Exercise is the best way to maintain sugar levels in the blood and balance insulin resistance when paired with a well-balanced, healthy diet.  

This also helps to maintain a healthy weight. Take a walk, ride a bicycle, get a hobby that keeps you physically active. You can do some gardening activities to boost your heart rate!  

Balance total carbohydrate intake – Choose foods with less GI because these foods usually have immense nutritional benefits. Pair carbohydrates with lean protein (protein with no or less fat) to help increase satiety and control appetite.  

Fill your plate half with veggies and fruits, a quarter portion with starches (whole grains or potatoes), and the remaining quarter with lean protein to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.  

It is important to remember that although fruits do contain natural sugar, they are loaded with the benefits of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals, which make them a good choice for a healthy diet.

Glucose, the main sugar in human blood, is obtained from the food you eat, and it powers your body.  

Maintaining your blood sugar levels within your target range is very important if you have Diabetes. It may be necessary to take medicines and/or follow a special diet if your blood sugar is too high or low.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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