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How Does Sugar Affect Insulin?

Last updated April 2, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Food can influence blood sugar in many ways. The components of a foodstuff can impact the blood sugar levels in a significant manner.

Blood glucose can be derived from any food that is consumed, though foods that are rich in carbohydrates and fats release a lot of glucose when consumed. Food rich in carbohydrates and/or fat are broken down into simpler components through digestion, of which glucose is an important component. After digestion, this glucose is released into the bloodstream. It is referred to as blood glucose or blood sugar interchangeably.

Once the level of this glucose rises, signals are sent to the pancreas to begin insulin hormone production. The insulin that is produced functions in two ways. It persuades various cells to absorb the glucose in blood for immediate energy usage, and it convinces cells to store the same glucose for use in the future, in case the body does not have any immediate need for energy supply. But, if the cells keep storing higher amounts of glucose, the cells expand in size leading directly to an obese physical body condition. This is the primary effect of blood sugar on insulin levels in our body.

Influence of food on blood sugar and insulin levels:

Food can influence blood sugar in many ways. The components of a foodstuff can impact the blood sugar levels in a significant manner. As it is well known, carbohydrate or fat-rich foods tend to increase blood glucose levels in a sedentary person, one who has little to less physical activity or exercise. However, this does not mean that carbohydrates or fats are bad for the body. It depends mostly on the amount consumed. Consumption of optimal amounts is recommended to have a balanced diet. With respect to avoiding foods that might increase blood sugar levels, one can refer to the glycemic index (GI) of foods for alternatives. Low GI foods do not cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels.

Insulin resistance:

As increasing blood sugar levels increase the amounts of insulin, it could lead to a condition known as insulin resistance. This refers to the condition where the body's cells need more ‘motivation’ before absorbing blood glucose, which means a higher amount of insulin is required to be produced to convince the cells to uptake blood glucose. And if this condition is left unattended over time, the levels of glucose increase in the bloodstream, due to a lack of absorption by the cells. This can in turn lead to diabetes.

If this condition is discovered early on, people can avoid or at the very least, delay the onset of this condition, by altering their lifestyles suitably. Physical exercise and a balanced diet in combination are considered to be an effective way of tackling conditions resulting from high blood sugar levels.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 2, 2018
Last updated: April 2, 2018