How to combat glucose spikes: Why it has become fashionable to measure your glucose even if you are not diabetic

How to combat glucose spikes: Why it has become fashionable to measure your glucose even if you are not diabetic

Measuring glucose is no longer just a thing for diabetics. We are so concerned with our body’s reactions to everything that a series of devices are becoming popular that include a patch with a subcutaneous needle to record our body’s reaction when we eat all types of foods. They are the sophisticated brother of the glucometer, and the difference with this one is that since they are permanently placed on the skin they make a continuous record.

Until a few years ago, these sensors were used only in the healthcare field. They were recommended for people with diabetes or prediabetes. But lately anyone uses them. In 2022 Luis Enrique, the then La Roja coach, showed his. They are also used by professional athletes such as the triathlete Jan Frodeno, the marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, the Jumbo Visma cyclists… It helps their trainers know when they have to eat during long efforts. And now it is the influencers who are ‘popularizing’ them.

These sensors, which are usually placed on the back of the arm, between the armpit and the elbow, report “continuously the glucose concentrations that a person has in their blood,” explains Manuel Antonio Botana López, endocrinologist at Lucus Hospital. Augusti de Lugo. “They actually don’t measure it directly in the blood, but in the interstitial space, the one between the cells under the skin,” he says. It is information “almost in real time about what is happening at that moment” in our body.

«If we have type 1, type 2 or uncontrolled gestational diabetes, it is necessary to know about it. But if we are healthy subjects, no. “There is no type of evidence.” explains dietician-nutritionist Lidia Folgar. “And much less continuously,” supports Botana López, who is also a member of the Management Committee of the Diabetes Area of ​​the Spanish Society of Endocrinology. However, on TikTok, videos are growing in which users without any problem share how the macaroni in their meal has affected their glucose curve.

The French biochemist Jessie Inchauspé was one of the pioneers in making this data known on social networks. In her case, on her Instagram profile, Glucose Goodness. It was an experiment in the middle of her research and she decided to be her own guinea pig by putting on the sensor. Today she is followed by more than 3.5 million people and she has written a book: ‘The glucose revolution’. But although there is a lot of science behind what she says, she is also generating something that she perhaps did not expect: fear.

“Healthy people have exquisite control of blood glucose concentration,” explains Botana López. When we eat, “regulatory mechanisms are set in motion, especially through the production and release of insulin in the blood, which prevent glucose from rising inappropriately, much less in the form of a spike.” So “the oscillations that are recorded are” minimal and in no way harmful. They show how well our body works.

Another of the negative effects that is having so much interest with our body’s reactions to glucose consumption is ‘carbophobia’. “Carbohydrates are not the bad guys in the movie,” defends Folgar. Neither those with slow absorption, which have a better press, nor those with rapid absorption. For this reason, he considers that blaming them for causing glucose spikes in healthy subjects is unfair and counterproductive: “A bad relationship with food begins by avoiding some food.” Something that can also lead to compulsive behaviors. So be careful with this.

Without going crazy

We must also be vigilant with all the advice on how to prepare our daily menu to avoid glucose spikes. This behavior can lead to excessive concern about what we put in our mouths and when we do it. “Sometimes they complicate our lives with recommendations that lack scientific evidence,” says the Galician endocrinologist.

If we are healthy, a healthy, varied, Mediterranean-style diet will be enough to protect our metabolic and vascular health. And it includes occasionally eating even some cake. But, furthermore, although what these gurus or ‘coaches’ recommend has scientific evidence, “it doesn’t always make sense in practice,” so we don’t have to force ourselves or go crazy, Folgar points out.

And he gives an example: “Eating a salad or a plate of vegetables before any other meal can be useful to prevent blood sugar from rising so much in a person with diabetes, which is where it is important. However, it may not be feasible because that person does not eat two dishes or does not have time to eat them or does not like salads, etc. “You have to individualize it and adapt it to each one.”

Lemon or cinnamon against glucose spikes?

The fashion for sensors that measure glucose continuously is also accompanied by another: that of supplements that help avoid glucose and insulin spikes. There are some based on cinnamon, lemon extract, blackberry leaves… Are they useful? “All of them lack two things,” says endocrinologist Manuel Antonio Botana López. The first is “scientific evidence that indicates that they really do what they say.” The second, “useful: in healthy people it is not necessary to avoid what is not going to happen in any case and in people with diabetes they do not have that effect that they claim.”

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