Wednesday, October 10, 2018 by Ralph Flores
Being in good health isn’t an excuse to grab a bowl of cereal — since it can still cause spikes in the blood sugar. In a study, which was published in PLOS Biology, scientists from Stanford University found that traditional methods to measure blood sugar doesn’t provide a complete picture of a person’s actual blood sugar levels. According to researchers, this is true even for those using blood glucose meters, as variances in a person’s blood sugar can be more than what is recorded by these devices — especially after eating carbohydrates.
For senior author Michael Snyder, the chair of genetics at Stanford, these unrecorded spikes are still a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, and they increase the likelihood of developing insulin resistance — a condition marked by the body’s inability to respond to the insulin hormone. The condition, in particular, is a precursor for Type 2 diabetes and even gestational diabetes.
“There are lots of folks running around with their glucose levels spiking, and they don’t even know it,” he added. “We saw that some folks who think they’re healthy actually are misregulating glucose—sometimes at the same severity of people with diabetes—and they have no idea.”
Researchers arrived at this conclusion after looking at the results from their clinical trial, where they gave participants a glucose-monitoring device which takes constant readings of sugar concentrations in the blood as it circulates. The study ran for two weeks and involved 57 individuals, which included healthy participants and those with either prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Blood sugar data collected were classified into three “glucotypes,” that is, a ranking for the intensity of a blood sugar spike. From the more detailed readouts, the team found that impaired glucose regulation is a much more common phenomenon than previously thought.
The findings revealed that the glucotypes are greatly affected by diet. In particular, researchers are looking for ways to effectively catch these spikes early and understand the triggers so people can make changes in their diets. The findings also indicated that people who are prone to diabetes have no idea they’re even pre-diabetic. Of these people, at least 70 percent will eventually develop the disease. In a sub-study, researchers also found that certain breakfast items — such as cornflakes with milk, peanut butter sandwich, and a protein bar — can cause blood sugar levels to spike, even for healthy individuals. The spike levels recorded by those who were healthy were similar to those who had prediabetes or diabetes. (Related: Control Blood Sugar to Extend Lifespan and Assist Natural Weight Loss.)
“We’re very interested in what it means to be ‘healthy’ and finding deviations from that,” Snyder explained. “We think that these continuous glucose monitors will be important in providing the right information earlier on so that people can make changes to their diet should they need to.”
The data from the readouts will be used to start a machine-learning model that identifies specific food items that can cause blood sugar spikes. In the future, the team believes that the model can determine which foods can cause fluctuations in blood sugar based on a person’s data and continuous glucose readout. For the researchers, the current method where blood sugar concentration is checked by a quick lance to the finger is problematic, given that it only provides data from the time it was taken. In contrast, a person’s blood sugar is dynamic, and it reflects what he has eaten during the day — especially carbohydrates. These include rice, bread, and potatoes, which people all digest differently.
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