Why are sugar spikes bad?
A study out of Stanford in which blood sugar levels were continuously monitored reveals that even people who think they’re “healthy” should pay attention to what they eat.
When people eat or drink, especially when they consume something that contains carbohydrates, it is normal for them to have a temporary spike in their sugar level (often known as a post-prandial spike). In a normal person, the pancreas responds by producing insulin, which works to lower the sugar spike. For people with diabetes, who can’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin they produce does not work, these spikes can be higher and last longer. And of course, the greater the sugar spike is, the worse the subsequent drop.
The problem with this is that if it keeps happening frequently at short intervals, it can lead to chronic inflammation, which is the main cause of diseases like stroke, heart disease, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes; all known as inflammation-based diseases.
“There are lots of folks running around with their glucose levels spiking, and they don’t even know it,” says Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics at Stanford and senior author of a study looking at sugar spikes in normal people. “The covert spikes are a problem because high blood sugar levels, especially when prolonged, can contribute to cardiovascular disease risk and a person’s tendencies to develop insulin resistance, which is a common precursor to diabetes.”
“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,” Snyder said.
In order to compensate for the blood sugar spikes, your body's first defense mechanism is to produce extra amounts of insulin to help lower your blood sugar levels. But, when sugar levels sink too low, an unhealthy rollercoaster of highs and lows in blood sugar levels starts to occur, causing major stress on your body and its vital processes.
According to recent scientific research, our cells emit tiny molecules known as free radicals when our bodies are overloaded with sugar. Free radicals are toxic and very harmful, damaging all cells they come into touch with. In moderation, our bodies can handle them, but when free radicals are produced in excess, the body cannot repair the damage they cause fast enough. Repeated sugar spikes cause excessive amounts of free radicals to be created, which subjects our bodies to a condiation called “oxidative stress”, which in turn can cause almost any ailment, including cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, and type 2 diabetes.
That’s why, the best way to combat the detrimental effects of blood sugar spikes on your health is to try to maintain stable blood sugar levels as much as you can. You can do that by eating more plant fibre, and avoiding unhealthy foods which are high in refined sugars or fats, taking exercise regularly, and watching your weight.