October 12, 2020

Why should I worry about Blood Glucose and Glycemic Index?

Debunking the myths about blood glucose and glycemic index

Ever so often we hear, "His blood sugar is high", "Rice has a high glycemic index", "Eat some candy to get more energy". But seldom do we know the meaning and science behind any of these. In this post we shall try to demystify the some of the common terminology related to blood sugar, glycemic index and explain how not having enough of it in our system can also lead to problems. The information has been derived mostly from scientific research which focused on the relationship between blood sugar and human metabolic functions.

Blood Glucose

Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, comes from the food you eat. Your body creates blood sugar by digesting some food into a sugar that circulates in your bloodstream. Your body breaks down everything you eat and absorbs the food in its different parts including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and other nutrients.

The carbohydrates consumed turn into blood sugar. After you eat, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into glucose. Essentially, glucose is your body’s fuel source. The more carbohydrates you eat, the higher the levels of glucose you’ll have released as you digest and absorb your food. (1)

Glycemic Index

Glycemic index is a rating system for any food item containing carbohydrates. It represents how quickly each food item affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when it's consumed on its own. (2)

Glycemic index is ranked on a scale of 0-100 based on how quickly and how much your blood sugar levels are raised after eating that particular item. White bread is rapidly digested, causes substantial fluctuations in blood sugar, and thus has a high glycemic index. Whole oats on the other hand are digested slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar and are categorized to have a low glycemic index. (2)

Potato Chips have a lower glycemic index than Fruits

Many factors can affect a food's glycemic index:

  • Fat and Acid Content: Meals with fat or acid are converted more slowly into sugar, thereby causing a very slow increase in blood sugar. However, a low blood sugar doesn't compensate for the calories that fat brings; if you don't watch what you eat, you can put on weight despite having stable blood sugar. (3)

VeriStable Hack: Top off your meal with a splash of apple cider vinegar or lime juice to reduce the overall glycemic index.

  • Processing: Grains that have been refined have a higher glycemic index than minimally processed whole grains
  • Physical Form: Since brown rice/ oats are in their whole form and not coarsely ground, they're healthier than eating highly processed "whole grain bread"
  • Fiber Content: High-fiber foods don't contain a lot of digestible carbohydrate, thus slowing the rate of digestion and causing a slow and more gradual rise in blood sugar.
  • Ripeness: It's better to eat a chunky green banana than a soft, ripe one since fruits and vegetables tend to have a higher glycemic index in comparison to unripened fruit.

Glycemic Load

Not all carbs are bad. While digestible carbohydrates are absorbed into our blood stream and increase the glucose levels, fiber is one component of carbohydrates that isn’t converted into sugar. This is because it can’t be digested. However, it serves our body a host of functions, particularly in relation to our bowel movements. (2)

In order to differentiate between the two, glycemic load is used to classify foods that take into account both the amount of carbohydrate in the food  in relation to its impact on blood sugar levels. Glycemic load helps you account for both the quantity and the quality of your carbs at the same time. Less than 10 is low; more than 20 is high. For a diet with a lower glycemic load, eat:

  • More whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables without starch, and other foods with a low glycemic index
  • Fewer foods with a high glycemic index, like potatoes, white rice, and white bread
  • Less of sugary foods, including candy, cookies, cakes, and sweet drinks

How to win the sugar game

Eating mixed meals is the most helpful. Protein, fat, and fiber help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. This will help reduce spikes in blood sugar after meals. How often you eat during the day is also important. Try to keep your blood sugar levels consistent by focusing on what, when and how much you eat. (4)

Continuous monitoring is advised, especially if someone in your family has a history of blood sugar diseases. The advent of modern technology has enabled instant results in contrast to the hours of wait that was required just a few decades back. However, continuous pricking of fingers in order to obtain blood sugar levels can lead to scarring, loss of sensibility/ perception hindrance in fingers etc. (5)

Veri is designed to help the user take control by providing a pain free solution that harnesses the power of trackable metrics and is scientifically sound. We believe that Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is the gateway to being aware of what's happening within our body and having the power to make adjustments in order to live healthier and happier. Veri is a painless device that provides real time continuous glucose monitoring data in an instant, enabling you to calibrate your blood sugar via tracking your diet, sleep and vice versa.

References

  1. Hantzidiamantis PJ, Lappin SL. Physiology, Glucose. [Updated 2019 Aug 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545201/
  2. Vega-López S, Venn BJ, Slavin JL. Relevance of the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Body Weight, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1361. Published 2018 Sep 22. doi:10.3390/nu10101361
  3. van Schothorst EM, Bunschoten A, Schrauwen P, Mensink RP, Keijer J. Effects of a high-fat, low- versus high-glycemic index diet: retardation of insulin resistance involves adipose tissue modulation. FASEB J. 2009;23(4):1092-1101. doi:10.1096/fj.08-117119
  4. Derdemezis CS, Lovegrove JA. Glycemic index, glycemic control and beyond. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(22):3620-3630. doi:10.2174/13816128113196660670
  5. Ojo O, Ojo OO, Adebowale F, Wang XH. The Effect of Dietary Glycaemic Index on Glycaemia in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):373. Published 2018 Mar 19. doi:10.3390/nu10030373

Needless to say, we're just getting started and are excited to share all our learnings in the future!

To optimal health,
Anttoni, Frans & Verneri

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