A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go UP!
I spend a lot of time in my clinic explaining to people what their various diagnoses mean. It amazes me how often people come in and have their lives defined by test results and disease labels that they don’t understand. They have been labeled but they have no idea what the label means.
Diabetes is one such label. When it comes to blood sugar (more appropriately titled insulin signaling) issues like diabetes, most people don’t know how much sugar is actually circulating in their blood at the best of times. They “know their numbers” (usually read from a glucose monitor) but have no idea what they actually mean. They want to address the problem but they have only vague general descriptions of how various foods actually affect the levels of glucose in their blood. Having a grasp on some of the numeric relationships involved can help in understanding what blood sugar values actually mean.
Normal, stable, blood sugar (glucose) levels represent less than a teaspoon of dissolved sugar in the blood. Seriously! That’s it. Just a teaspoon full and everything beyond that runs around promoting disease and making people put on extra body fat. That is why our bodies have such powerful mechanisms to keep blood sugar in a narrow range.
Most people don’t believe me when I say that. They have been told that they need to eat 300 grams of carbohydrates daily, all of which will eventually convert into blood sugar. How could only a teaspoon be healthy?
This lab value causes some confusion so let’s do the math on this one, just to make things crystal clear.
Here are the basic units that we need to understand in order to add up the details.
one litre (l)= 10 decilitres (dl) one gram (g) = 1000 milligrams (mg)
one teaspoon = 5 grams
The American Diabetes Association explains the difference between healthy fasting blood sugar values and problematic levels as a series of benchmarks. A value bordering on but not quite at diabetic levels is 100 mg per dl (100 mg/dl). A fasting blood sugar value between 100 mg per dl and 125 mg per dl is considered to be pre-diabetic (almost a diagnosis of diabetes). If your fasting blood sugar is beyond a measure of 125 mg per dl you are deemed a full blown diabetic.
|Pre-diabetic||100 – 125 mg/dl|
The value that we want to remain under is 99mg/dl. This is the highest lab value that can come back where you are still considered “healthy”. So, let’s look at how much sugar is contained in the blood at that level.
An average human has roughly 5 litres of blood flowing throughout their body. How much sugar, when dissolved into 5 litres, will add up to 99 mg/dl? Well, one litre contains 10 decilitres, so we need to multiply 99 mg per dl by 10. This tells us there are 990 mg of sugar in one litre of “healthy” blood. Multiplying 990 mg by the number of litres of blood in the average human (5) will tell us how much sugar is floating around in the body so, 990 multiplied by 5 equals 4950 mg. Since there are 1000 mg in a gram that only gives us a value of 4.95 grams of sugar. (There are 5 grams in a teaspoon).
1 litre = 10 decilitres = 990 mg of sugar
990 mg x 5 = 4950 mg
4995 mg = 4.95 g
That is it! It’s amazing when you think about it. Being considered pre-diabetic only requires you to have a little bit over a teaspoon of sugar in your blood. Equally important is the revelation that being a full-blown diabetic only requires 126 mg per dl, which amounts to 6.25 grams of sugar … less than 2 teaspoons of sugar!
This might put a face on why diabetes rates are sky-rocketing world-wide. A 355 ml can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar in it! A 590 ml bottle of Coca-Cola has 65 grams of sugar in it! Regardless of their flavour, 20-ounce bottles of Gatorade have 34 grams of sugar. So much for “sports drinks” helping you with your level of fitness! The same goes true for those “healthy” low glycemic carbohydrates like whole grain bread. They might raise blood sugar more slowly, but levels rise none the less. There are 12 grams of sugar in one slice of whole grain bread!
Take these things into consideration when you consider switching over to a low-to-lower carb life style. The impact on blood glucose values will be immediate and obvious. We don’t need all that much in the way of carbohydrates. This realization also explains why there are no essential carbohydrate requirements in the human diet. Instead, consider the fact that we can thrive, (quite nicely thank-you-very-much), on body fat, dietary fat and ketones as a source of energy.
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