Stable and healthy blood sugar is a key component of optimal metabolic health, helping lead to things like more energy, mood stability, better sleep, lower chronic disease risk, and even clearer skin.
The process behind it: Glucose is the main sugar in the bloodstream, and it mostly comes from the food you eat. Glucose triggers the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that helps bring that glucose into your cells for energy. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver and as triglycerides in fat cells.
Your body can use glucose in your bloodstream or your stored glycogen for energy. It can also make new glucose from other compounds in the body like amino acids (breakdown products of proteins).
But if your body has too much glucose too often—say, from a diet heavy in carbohydrates and sugar—it can disrupt this metabolic process and lead to health problems.
Excess glucose can lead to...
· Insulin resistance: when cells become numb to insulin and can’t use glucose for energy as efficiently. High insulin also blocks stored fat from being broken down and used for energy.
· Inflammation: when your body's natural defense system goes into overdrive it can lead to vascular damage and other dysfunction.
· Oxidative stress: too many damaging free radicals in the body can impair metabolic processes.
· Glycation: glucose getting "stuck" to cells in the body and causing dysfunction.
· Blood sugar crashes (called reactive hypoglycemia) and increased cravings for more sweet foods.
The consequence of all this: Poor glucose control contributes to the majority of common chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and infertility. And the dysfunction that can lead to these outcomes can start building years before it shows up on a blood test and leads to a diagnosis of diabetes or even prediabetes—by that point, many of these problems are well under way.
According to the CDC, more than a third of U.S. adults have prediabetes. Up to 64% of those people may go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that much of this is preventable. You have a lot of control over your blood sugar—and in turn, your metabolic health—through choices around diet and lifestyle.