You’ve heard the phrase ‘sugar rush’ – that feeling when you have a lot of energy after a sugary treat. We’ve all heard that stabilising our blood sugar levels is good for our health, but why? And how does it really affect our bodies?
The science bit…
When your blood sugar level becomes raised, your pancreas releases insulin to deal with the excess glucose (sugar). The more often insulin is required, the less sensitive the body becomes to its own insulin. This is known as insulin resistance – meaning as we get older, we build up a resistance to our insulin. It’s the reason adults don’t become hyper from sugar in the way that children do.
Why should I keep my blood sugar levels in check?
There are plenty of ways that blood sugar affects our overall health – the most common is that consistently high blood sugar levels lead to health conditions such as diabetes and weight gain. By monitoring your blood sugar, you’re ultimately helping to prevent yourself from developing these kinds of conditions.
Frequent spikes in your blood sugar can cause your normal blood sugar levels to always remain slightly raised. Combine this with the development of insulin resistance and you could be heading towards Type 2 Diabetes. Tracking these levels early on can help you make changes to your health to prevent your likelihood of developing these types of conditions.
High blood sugar levels encourage fat stores
Your blood sugar level also plays a massive part on the amount of fat you store. A diet that regularly causes large blood sugar spikes is highly likely to encourage more fat to store in the body. To keep your body in a fat burning state, you need to have a stable blood sugar level throughout the day. This means any excess fat stores can be more readily used for energy and reduces the need for the body to store any excess energy (glucose) into the fat deposits.
It’s also good to make sure our blood sugar is not too high or too low when we're exercising. Too high a blood sugar level means we are far more likely to crash mid-workout, whilst too low a blood sugar will cause us to not be able to put enough effort into our workouts. This usually results in stopping halfway through due to feeling unwell.
How can I monitor my blood sugar levels?
Your doctor or nurse can directly measure blood sugar levels, or you can use a test kit at home to check them. The NHS Choices website advises that normal blood sugar levels should range between 4-7 mmol/l before eating and 8.5-9 mmol/l two hours after eating. Health trackers such as the Evergreen Life app can help you keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and help you avoid symptoms of elevated blood sugar levels such as increased thirst, frequent urges to urinate, tiredness, blurred vision, and recurrent infections.
What affects my blood sugar levels?
Diet has a massive effect on your blood sugar levels. A lot of people think to keep their blood sugar under control they need to avoid simple sugars found in sweets and chocolate, which is a big part of it. But it’s not the only thing; carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index (GI) like white bread, pasta, potatoes and certain fruits can spike blood glucose levels just as much as your favourite treats.
One of the best things to help you make better low GI food choices is to familiarise yourself with the Glycaemic Index and Glycaemic Load scales, which will tell you the effect of all foods upon your blood glucose. From this point, you would benefit from trying to avoid foods with a glycaemic index of 70 or more, and a glycaemic load of below 11.
But is it just down to your diet, or could other factors be at play? There's evidence to show that your resting glucose levels could be affected at least in part by your genetics. By undertaking a home DNA test, you could find out more about how your genes could be contributing to increased blood sugar levels. From there, you can take informed steps to better your own health.
Your sweet tooth could be in your DNA
Evergreen Life DNA is a home DNA test that can help you understand how your genes may metabolise carbohydrates like sugars from your diet, and contribute to your blood sugar levels. Our test covers a range of genetic markers associated with elevated glucose levels and risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Along with your genetic results, you will receive an insight into how your genes are affecting your metabolism, along with advice on how you can optimise your lifestyle to get the best out of your genetics.