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Here’s Why Everyone Should Care About Their Blood Glucose Levels

Sure, you’ve probably heard the term blood glucose. And you have some sort of vague idea that maybe it has to do with sugar and eating sweets. You might also think it’s only something that diabetics need worry about, so it’s not even on your healthcare radar. But the reality is that blood glucose, and its related issues, could be impacting your health without you even realizing it.

Blood glucose has several important functions in your body such as supplying nutrients and energy to your cells, and serving as the main source of fuel for your muscles, organs, and your brain. But if blood glucose gets too high (for too long, or too often), health problems can start to pop up.

Photo: Shutterstock/Tatiana Shepeleva

The Role Blood Glucose Plays In The Body

When you eat a carbohydrate-rich food (we’re looking at you donuts, pizza breadsticks, and cinnamon buns!), the carbohydrates get digested and broken down into their simplest form in your body: glucose. The glucose is then sent to your bloodstream, hence the term “blood glucose.” A quick rise in blood glucose signals your pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that shuttles the glucose to your cells for energy (namely muscle, liver, and fat cells).

When blood glucose levels start to drop again, your pancreas switches to producing the hormone glucagon; in turn, liver cells respond to glucagon by releasing stored glucose into the blood, raising blood glucose levels back to a normal range. In short, your body is always working to maintain homeostasis (a relatively stable equilibrium) of blood glucose.

A healthy blood glucoses balance provides cells with the energy and nutrients they need, but also serves to keep excess glucose out of your bloodstream. Too much glucose in your blood can be harmful to your body’s systems, organs, and blood vessels. If not properly managed through diet, supplementation, or exercise, blood glucose can affect the wellbeing of even the healthiest individuals.

The Effects Of Too Much Glucose

If you consume more carbohydrates or sugar than your body can handle at once, blood glucose can quickly spike. In response, the pancreas may over-correct, releasing too much insulin, causing blood glucose to drop too low before glucagon can bring it back up. So that quick energy spike you might have been looking for eventually turns into an energy crash just a few hours later. In other words, you can go from energetic to lethargic in a relatively short amount of time.

Photo: Shutterstock/Nina Buday

Weight Management, Oxidative Stress, and Skin Health

We know that when blood glucose is high, insulin is released. Insulin, a fat-storage hormone, tells cells to store fat and prevents stored fat from being released and burned. If your blood glucose is chronically elevated or your cells become resistant to insulin, your body stays in “fat storage mode,” making it difficult to lose weight and perhaps even increasing fat gain. High blood glucose levels also interfere with a hormone called leptin, which manages satiety and tells your brain when to stop eating. All of which means elevated blood glucose levels could make you hungrier and lead to overeating.


High blood glucose can cause oxidative stress, which results from an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body. Free radicals are a proven cause of cellular damage, disease, and perhaps even aging; antioxidants can counteract the negative effects of free radicals. But when you have excess oxidative stress caused by high blood glucose, your body generates more free radicals than antioxidants, tipping the scales toward cellular damage.

Although a little unclear, the mechanism between glucose and skin is worth noting. It’s hypothesized that as your body produces more insulin to deal with blood glucose, androgen hormones are activated that can stimulate excess skin sebum production, a well-known cause of skin breakouts.

Photo: Shutterstock/Proxima Studio

Getting – And Keeping – Glucose Under Control

Making dietary and lifestyle changes can help you manage your blood glucose better.
Research shows that increasing exercise, improving sleep, reducing stress, and fasting can all contribute to healthy blood glucose levels.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just overeating carbohydrates that can lead to blood glucose issues:  Overeating any food can cause glucose issues. Overeating has actually been shown to cause a malfunction in brain insulin signaling, which can then reduce your body’s ability to deal with excess glucose in the bloodstream.

You might also consider prioritizing protein when it comes to your dietary intake. High-protein foods can keep you from overeating, and they also have much less of an effect on blood glucose.

And yes, you just might have to cut back on the carbs, a little or a lot depending on your daily intake. But carbohydrates can be part of a healthy diet; you just need to be conscious of how many carbs you eat, and what kind, so that you don’t overload your system. In other words, say goodbye to grabbing some leftover birthday cake for breakfast as you rush out the door, and think instead that it’s the birth of a new day of healthy eating.