Diabetics and pre-diabetics have a much higher risk of heart disease, cancer and many other diseases and this correlates with high blood glucose.
But why is high blood sugar bad for your health?
Blood glucose is often measured with the HbA1c test. This is a test of how much glucose is in your blood over a period of months by measuring how much glucose has bound to red blood cells. That’s because a small percentage of glucose attaches to blood cells at a predictable rate as blood sugar goes up.
If your HbA1c is 6% or above, you are pre-diabetic and in dangerous territory. (More about measuring diabetes in a future blog.)
Now let’s describe the mechanism of destruction. First of all, we have learned that constant high blood sugar leads to insulin resistance as your body tries to make more insulin to keep up with the added sugars. So a consequence of high glucose is hormonal imbalance.
But high glucose, by itself, causes serious problems. When glucose is high in the blood stream it binds (glycates) to and damages cell proteins. These glycated proteins then often break down into free radicals; molecules that are chemically reactive. For example, when glucose binds to hemoglobin it often leads to the release of free iron in the blood as well as other reactive molecules. This free iron causes its own cascading damage.
Also, damaged proteins often become sticky themselves. This can lead to the hardening of structures such as blood vessels and organs. In the end, high glucose damages all the body’s tissues including skin, fatty tissues and vital organs such as the heart and kidneys.
But why would nature create a molecule that is so vital for survival, and make it so destructive? Basically, high levels of glucose for long periods of time overwhelm the body’s normal protective systems that clean up damage. When the body is overwhelmed, bad things happen. Thus, eating some cake will not kill you, but eating cake every day for a year will likely lead to serious disease and damage.
In writing this blog I used the following article:
While it is in technical language I recommend people read it. It’s a great summary of how high glucose damages the body.