Everything we eat is absorbed by the body and used for energy. Starches and sugars, also known as carbohydrates, are broken down into glucose (sugar), which is the term for the body’s “ready to use” energy supply. If glucose is not needed immediately by the body, it is stored as glycogen, which can be broken down again into glucose when needed. Protein and fat can also be broken down by the body into glucose, but this takes the body far longer to break down.
In response to the glucose that is absorbed through the digestive tract, the pancreas releases insulin that allows the muscles and tissues of the body to use the glucose for energy. With Type 2 Diabetes, the pancreas is unable to keep up with the insulin demand or the insulin does not work well enough to use all of the glucose available in the blood (insulin resistance). This results in a high blood glucose or blood sugar level.
There are two different terms used when describing how blood sugar is affected by food: glycemic index and glycemic load. Glycemic index (GI), written as a percentage, refers to the amount of change that food has on blood glucose levels, especially carbohydrates. Glycemic load (GL) refers to the total amount of food eaten throughout the day (the glycemic index multiplied by the amount of food eaten), which is a better measure of how blood glucose is affected by food.
Low- or moderate-glycemic-index foods have a less dramatic spike in blood glucose which may allow the pancreas to secrete enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels controlled. High-glycemic-index foods should be avoided whenever possible. When a meal high in glycemic load (large amounts of high-glycemic-index foods) is eaten at one sitting, blood sugar levels increase dramatically. This triggers the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin which may not be able to use up the glucose properly. This results in a high blood glucose level and a high insulin level because the insulin is not used up properly. The remaining insulin increases the feeling of hunger and may cause overeating which further affects blood sugar and weight gain.
One hour after a meal with a high-glycemic-index, blood glucose levels begin to spike. In response to this, the pancreas releases insulin. By two hours, the blood glucose level and the insulin level in a person without Type 2 Diabetes are typically maintained at a close to constant level. However, in a person with Type 2 Diabetes, this does not occur. The glucose in the blood does not respond to the insulin and results in a high insulin and glucose level. The glucose is then removed from the blood stream and stored by the body as glycogen. The insulin is not reabsorbed by the body and four hours after the meal, the increased insulin levels can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Because the brain can only use glucose as it’s energy supply, this can cause problems and commonly encourages the person to snack or overeat at the next meal, continuing the vicious cycle.
It is recommended that people with Type 2 Diabetes eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid foods high in sugars and high-glycemic-index carbohydrates. This allows the body to maintain a more constant blood glucose level, which also allows the body to use the glucose for energy instead of storing as glycogen, which would result in weight gain. A well-balanced diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates, eaten in five to six small meals throughout the day, is the best method for controlling blood sugar.
For further information regarding a well-balanced diet, please look into a new book called “The BetesBuster Plan” by Thomas Fouts. This book gives you food charts based on the Glycemic Index and his own researched nutrition plan. You just pick your food of choice from each of the columns and “POOF” you have a properly portioned, balanced meal! Can’t get too much easier than that.