Blood Sugar Control
What is Blood Sugar Control?
The body strives to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels within a narrow range. Too high or too low blood sugar levels can have serious consequences. One of the key hormones in blood sugar control is insulin. In response to a rise in blood sugar after a meal, the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream to help drive the glucose into the cells.
It is widely accepted that a diet high in refined carbohydrates (sugars) is the most important contributing factor to loss of blood sugar control. Such a diet leads to the cells throughout the body becoming less sensitive to insulin to produce a situation known as insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance often leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes. It is also a major underlying factor in a wide array of chronic health conditions including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and macular degeneration. Every effort should be made to maintain proper blood sugar control to prevent insulin resistance.
What Causes Loss of Blood Sugar Control?
Insulin resistance is closely tied to abdominal obesity. If your waist circumference is larger than your hips, there is an extremely strong likelihood that you suffer from insulin resistance. As fat cells in the abdomen grow in size or number, they secrete a number of biologic products (e.g., resistin) that dampen the effect of insulin, impair glucose utilization in skeletal muscle, and promote glucose (blood sugar) production by the liver. Also important is that as the number and size of fat cells increase, they lead to a reduction in the secretion of compounds that promote insulin action, including a novel protein produced by fat cells known as adiponectin.
What Dietary Factors are Important in Blood Sugar Control?
Weight loss, in particular a significant decrease in body-fat percentage, is a prime objective in improving blood sugar control in most individuals. It is also important to avoid refined sugars, white flour products, and other sources of simple sugars which are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar, severely stressing blood sugar control.
Increasing the intake of dietary fiber, especially the soluble form, is very important. Soluble fiber is capable of slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, thereby preventing rapid rises in blood sugar. These fibers are also associated with increasing the sensitivity of tissues to insulin and improving the uptake of glucose by the muscles, liver, and other tissues, thereby preventing a sustained elevation of blood sugar.
Particularly good sources of soluble fiber are legumes, oat bran, nuts, seeds, pears, apples, and most vegetables. Large amounts of plant foods must be consumed to obtain enough dietary fiber, although beans, peas, and legumes are overall the best sources for high fiber intake in relatively easy amounts to ingest.