In previous articles in this series, we looked at how one of Mr. White’s typical meals affected his blood glucose levels. We also learned about the variability of fasting glucose levels. Today we’ll look at two glucose curves from Mr. Orange, another friend who was kind enough to share his glucose measurements with me. Mr. Orange monitored his glucose after a typical meal (a foot-long roast beef sub and diet soda) and compared those measurements to those he took after eating a low-carb meal of feta cheese, avocado, and olive oil a couple of days later.
Because Mr. Orange’s starting glucose level was different between the two meals (as is typical when comparing fasting glucose levels that are days apart), I plotted the graph to show the change in blood glucose from its starting point. Take a look:
As you can see, Mr. Orange’s foot-long roast beef sub elevated his glucose level by over 60 mg/dL, as compared to the meal of feta cheese, avocado, and olive oil, which did not increase Mr. Orange’s glucose levels at all.
So what’s so important about this difference? Why should Mr. Orange be thinking long and hard about eating more meals that to not elevate his glucose levels? As I document in Don’t Die Early, blood glucose levels above 140 mg/dL are “toxic” to internal organs and studies even indicate that physiological harm occurs every time our blood glucose levels exceed 100 to 120 mg/dL. Reaching these levels day after day, week after week, year after year, slowly destroys our insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells and causes Type 2 diabetes.
We know from the above chart how much Mr. Orange’s high-carb meal elevated his blood glucose over his starting point, but what are the absolute values? Just how high did Mr. Orange’s postprandial glucose levels go? Take a look:
Mr. Orange’s glucose level reached a high of 141 mg/dL after his foot-long sub. Starting from a very desirable fasting glucose level of 80, his meal took him from an optimal glucose range into ranges that are toxic to internal organs.
If a single wheat roll from a sub sandwich can do this, what does a plate of pasta do? A 32-ounce soda? A bag of chips? A handful of pretzels? A bowl of popcorn? Two Pop-Tarts? A bowl of cereal in skim milk? Just how many times a day are we doing this to ourselves?
We simply can’t know how unfavorable our postprandial glucose levels are unless we check. And we don’t have to think of ourselves as diabetic in order to spend a few days conducting this eye-opening research on ourselves. A person can read articles about foods that lower or raise the risk of diabetes and can memorize glycemic index tables until her head spins, but nothing can come close to spending a few days with a glucose meter. With a little effort and minimal cost, we can measure, not speculate, what we’re doing to ourselves with every single meal.
And while optimal health is not about fixating on weight—it’s about measuring truly influential parameters like blood glucose, lipid subfractions, and cardiac plaque—nothing will help you lose weight as effectively as understanding how your meals are affecting your blood glucose levels.
Is Mr. Orange going to take this lesson to heart and start eating in such a way as to minimize his blood glucose levels? I don’t know. That’s up to Mr. Orange. I do believe this: If we all spent a little time with a glucose meter like Mr. Orange has done, seeing how our typical meals affect our blood glucose, and we change our eating habits to avoid harmful glucose levels, we could make Type 2 diabetes as rare as hen’s teeth.