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Blood Sugar

In medicine and in animal physiology, blood sugar is a term used to refer to the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose, transported via the bloodstream, is the primary source of energy for the body's cells.

Every time we eat, the food is digested and converted into sugar or glucose molecules which our body uses for energy. These molecules run the course of our blood stream--hence the term ‘blood sugar’—in search of cells to feed. The more blood sugar molecules you have in your blood stream, the higher your blood sugar level. Blood sugar is the fuel of our cells; without it our cells will starve, meaning, we will starve and eventually die. That is why when we skip a meal we feel weak because our cells are deprived of their normal dose of blood sugar molecules.

To feed the cell, the blood sugar molecule must enter it. It does so with the help of a ‘key’ to unlock the cell. This ‘key’ is the insulin molecule. The insulin unlocks the cell so the blood sugar can enter. The pancreas is the primary organ responsible for producing insulin. When we eat, it releases enough amount of insulin to meet the expected surge in blood sugar level. Normally the two work together without hitch.

Diabetes

Things go wrong when blood sugar molecules accumulate in the blood stream because they cannot enter the cells. This is when your blood sugar level shoots up (you have too much sugar molecules in the blood). We call this condition diabetes mellitus.

You are safe as long as your blood sugar level reading is between 70 to 110 mg/dL on the average. This means that for every deciliter of blood, there are between 70 to 110 milligrams of sugar ‘roaming’ in your blood stream. When you go just a little above the threshold, you are considered at risk of diabetes, or what some experts refer to as borderline diabetic. Beyond this, you are considered diabetic.

When blood sugar cannot enter the cells, it poses a double whammy. First, your cells are starved, making you feel weak and tired. Second, sugar accumulation in the blood stream poses a risk to various parts of the body. Diabetes is strongly linked to kidney failure, eye diseases, heart attacks, nerve disorders and stroke.

There are three reasons why diabetes develops

  1. Defective pancreas. It’s not producing insulin at all, depriving the blood sugar molecules their keys to unlock the cells. This is known as type-1 diabetes, which is usually genetic and affects children.
  2. Not enough insulin. While the pancreas produces insulin, the amount is not enough to meet the number of blood sugar molecules. Some sugar molecules get to enter and feed some cells; the rest collect in the blood stream.
  3. Defective insulin. The pancreas produces enough insulin, but for reasons still unclear, some insulin cannot ‘unlock’ the cells. Again, some sugar molecules enter some cells; others accumulate in the blood stream.

The conditions in number 2 and 3 are known as type-2 diabetes, and it affects almost 90% of all diabetes cases. About four decades ago, type-2 affected only people above 40 years old; but as many succumb to sweet and fatty diets, thanks to the mass proliferation of junk and fast foods, and lack of exercise, diabetes now affects even as young as those in their late 20s. Diabetes has no known cure yet. In the meantime, the World Health Organization acknowledges that the best defense against the disease (if you still don’t have it) or its complications (if you’re already diabetic) is maintaining a low-fat, high-fiber diet and performing regular exercises.