What are glucose peaks?

Article published at: Oct 26, 2023
What are glucose peaks?
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Jul 14

(Excerpt from my book "Glucose: Friend and Foe")

Glucose peaks are abnormal fluctuations in glucose levels that indicate the variability of blood sugar. We can also call them continuous spikes in blood sugar. High peaks can cause serious harm to our health. They depend on the consumption of all sugars, including those found in fruits and honey, or even in foods that are often unsuspected. Sugars are the 'enemies' of our body. However, we can get to know them better in order to consume them correctly, so as to keep the glycemic curve low, which is essential for our health.

Sugars are everywhere. We eat a lot of them, often without realizing it, putting our health at risk. For many years, we believed that measuring sugar was enough to show us the consequences of glycemia in our bodies. Today, however, we know that what seriously affects our health is the damage caused by glucose peaks. Regardless of whether someone is diabetic or not, peaks harm us all.

Sudden hunger and chronic fatigue are just a few of the mild and common symptoms. In more serious cases, they include cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's.

In this book, we will explore numerous studies from universities and advice from scientists who study glycemia intensively. They will explain why glucose peaks and unstable glycemia are dangerous and how to regulate them without giving up the pleasure of our favorite foods, including sweets and carbohydrates.

What exactly triggers a glycemic peak? Let's have a little chemistry lesson. Don't worry; chemistry is the easiest subject of all, with no surprises. When you combine 2 or more molecules or compounds in a chemical reaction, you know the result precisely, and it's also the most fascinating subject because it explains the world, life, love, our love for glucose, and even death. The reason why most children today don't know chemistry, ask the teachers of Secondary Education. Only they know. However, the only ones who are not to blame are the children.

So, a little chemistry. Our cells, like those of plants and animals, need energy to live, and the primary source of this energy is glucose. We get glucose from foods in the form of 2 carbohydrates: starch and sugars.

These sugars, which include glucose, fructose, sucrose (1 molecule of glucose + 1 molecule of fructose), and lactose (1 molecule of glucose + 1 molecule of galactose), are called 'rapidly absorbed carbohydrates' or 'simple sugars.' We find them in many foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. However, we also find them as artificial additives in many other foods, such as bread, soft drinks, and snacks. We even find them as sweeteners, and we must pay attention to those as well.

Foods containing natural sugars also contain dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that slow down the absorption of sugars and make us feel full. In contrast, so-called processed foods are designed to be tastier and more attractive to consumers but have minimal dietary fiber because it complicates the production process, both in packaging and freezing-thawing. I would say here that processed and over-processed foods, poor in dietary fiber and rich in sugars, are useless calories, dangerous, and not at all nutritious.

When we have a glucose test with a pathologist, they take our blood while fasting, and immediately afterward, we consume a glucose solution (containing 1 gram of glucose per kilogram of the individual's weight, not 75 grams for all individuals). After 60 minutes, they take our blood again, and once more after 60 minutes. This gives us 3 samples, which are sufficient to examine the glucose or sugar curve. There are curves that measure glucose levels at 30 minutes, as well as at 150 and 180 minutes, but these are done in special cases.

The purpose of the curve is to determine if we are diabetic, if we are in a prediabetic stage, or if we have normal glucose metabolism.

When we receive the test results and look at the curve, we will see that the highest value corresponds to the blood drawn at 60 minutes. This value is also known as the glucose peak, meaning the peak, the highest point on the curve.

Here, we see two glucose curves. The blue line shows the fluctuation in glucose levels of a diabetic individual, while the green line represents a non-diabetic individual. However, in both cases, glucose has peaked, albeit to different degrees.

An example of the glucose curve, where in one hour we have the peak and then it falls down.

In this book, we will call any glucose value after any meal (we will specify in many meals and breakfasts) that exceeds 30% of the fasting value, which we will now call the baseline value, a 'peak.' High peaks will be the glucose value that exceeds 60% of the baseline value.

EXAMPLE: We measure glucose levels in two individuals who are fasting. Both have a baseline value of 100 mg/dl. We give them each a bowl of cereal with milk, with portions measured to the gram. After 60 minutes, we take a new sample. We observe that one of them has a glucose measurement of 130 mg/dl, while the other has 160 mg/dl.

In the first individual, glucose has peaked (+30% from the baseline value), while in the second individual, it has a high peak (+60% from the baseline value). Both will experience the consequences of these peaks, with the second individual experiencing much worse consequences. We will see why below.

Glucose peaks are harmful to all of us, not just diabetics.

Gerassimos Tsiolis, PhD in Biochemistry
University of Bologna, Italy