What Is A Healthy Glucose Response To Food?

By: Monica Nagele

Continuous Glucose Monitors have been gaining in popularity lately, but are they necessary for someone without diabetes? Let’s break it down.

Glucose serves as the primary energy source for all living beings, including humans. When we consume carbohydrates, our digestive system converts them into glucose, transporting it to cells throughout the body. Cells use glucose for essential functions like muscle movement, cognitive processes, and bodily maintenance.

Maintaining blood glucose within a specific range is vital for overall well-being. Deviations, either too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia), can lead to health issues. The body tightly regulates these levels using hormones, primarily insulin, which lowers glucose levels, and glucagon, which raises them. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for future use.

Consuming foods high in simple sugars or rapidly absorbed carbohydrates can lead to glucose spikes and crashes. Spikes occur when blood sugar levels rapidly rise after consuming sugary snacks or beverages, providing a brief energy surge. However, the subsequent insulin response may cause a crash, leading to symptoms like fatigue, shakiness, and mood swings.

It’s essential to note that such spikes and crashes are typically associated with excessive carbohydrate consumption or very low intake. A balanced meal should lead to a gradual rise in blood sugar, which should stabilize within 2 hours after eating.

For individuals without diabetes, blood glucose should remain under 100 mg/dL when fasting and should be 140 mg/dL or less 2 hours after a meal. Insulin plays a key role in maintaining these levels. If these levels are consistently high, it could signal a potential issue, and it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for evaluation.

While CGMs have gained popularity, they are primarily designed for diabetes management. For those without diabetes, they are generally unnecessary. Blood glucose rises and falls naturally in response to food, and wearing a CGM may not provide significant benefits.

Balanced meal composition, combining carbohydrates with protein or fat, can help stabilize blood glucose levels and reduce hunger. Fiber, often lacking in low-carb diets, promotes digestive health and helps control glucose levels.

Frequent glucose spikes followed by crashes can lead to overeating and contribute to weight gain and obesity. Moreover, these fluctuations can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial for long-term health.

In conclusion, while CGMs offer valuable insights for individuals with diabetes, they aren’t necessary for those without the condition. Monitoring and managing blood glucose levels primarily benefit individuals with specific health conditions. To maintain a healthy glucose response, focus on balanced meals, portion control, and adequate fiber intake. Remember, it’s the overall calorie balance, not a specific macronutrient, that affects weight management. If this is something you have been concerned about, check out the Bite by Bite podcast for more information. New episodes drop on the last Wednesday of the month.

– Monica Nagele is the County Extension Director and educator of health and human science for the Montgomery County Purdue Extension.