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13 Jun

The Importance of Blood Sugar Level

1539207729 533d096185 1Think this is a post about diabetes? Nope. (Although you wouldn’t be alone in that assumption…) In this country, if you don’t have diabetes, you’re supposedly in the clear. Not so fast, we say!

Research from New Zealand offers “the largest study to date of [hemoglobin] A1C levels and subsequent mortality risk” in men and women without a diabetes diagnosis. And guess what? The higher subjects’ blood sugar, the greater their risk of mortality 4 years later. Score another point for the Primal Blueprint.

The researchers conducted follow-up with more than 47,000 people who had participated in a Hepatitis B screening a few years earlier. Subjects were non-diabetic at the time of initial screening. The average age of study participants was only 38. Between the time of initial screening and follow-up, 815 subjects died.

Brewer’s team found that the risk of premature death rose in tandem with blood sugar levels. The risk of death increased steadily from the A1C “reference category” (4.0% to less than 5.0%) to the highest A1C category (7.0% or higher). Strong associations were seen between elevated blood sugar and death from endocrine, nutritional, metabolic, and immunity disorders. Blood sugar was also strongly associated with death from diseases of the circulatory system. Weaker associations were observed between increasing blood sugar and deaths from cancer and other and unknown causes.

via Medline Plus

Just for reference, “healthy” individuals are expected to show AIC readings in the 4%-6%. (Different hospitals/physicians sometimes use variations of this range.) Although AIC levels aren’t generally used to “diagnose” diabetes, measurements above 7% cross a recommended threshold defined by the American Diabetes Association.

This study reminded us of earlier news we reported on a few weeks ago. The “Hunt study” showed that thyroid function in the less active part of the “normal” clinical reference range was associated with an increased risk for fatal coronary heart disease.

The connection? We can’t keep seeing health in a black and white paradigm of disease versus “good” health. Health, ultimately, is a continuum, and it’s important for medical care to help us assess our place on that spectrum rather than simply confirm or rule out particular conditions. Our current medical system and public mindset seem to do little in the way of active prevention. Too many of us wait until we’re dealing with dramatic symptoms and medical diagnoses.

The studies encourage us to be more cautious in our personal health analysis and more rigorous in our routines. Not having a condition simply isn’t enough. The gradations that lead up to those looming diagnoses are pretty menacing, as it turns out. In this case, officially “normal” blood sugar levels (AIC levels) are associated with higher risks of death due to endocrine, nutritional, metabolic, and immunity disorders. And that doesn’t even include subjects who are now suffering from these disorders but are still alive! Isn’t it time for a new standard, a new vision of health assessment?

However, there’s a definite positive, encouraging message in this study as well. And it’s one we try to spout as often as we can. Your daily, continuous, seemingly thankless efforts absolutely matter.

amyliagrace Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

What Happens to Your Body When… You CARB BINGE?

Hormones and Heart Disease

The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes (and you’ll understand it)

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You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Hello friends,
    “The higher subjects’ blood sugar, the greater their risk of mortality 4 years later.”
    I think that this is an astounding statistic. In only 4 years, that is such a short amount of time. Has anyone changed there diet reading this, gone from eating anything and everything to adjusting their diet to the primal blueprint? I don’t think you have to be necessarily obese and so fourth, but just gone from a higher sugar intake to the primal, paleolithic diet?
    I personally have never gotten an AIC reading before, is this something that is taken on regular “checkups” or is it administered at request?

    Jim Dodd wrote on June 13th, 2008
  2. Jim,

    I stopped doing sugar about a month ago. I actually felt withdrawal symptoms. I don’t know if this was some sore of “reverse sugar shock,” perhaps just my body adjusting to the new blood sugar levels. A little lightedheadedness, that sort of thing. Anyway, it’s passed now, and my blood sugar levels should be lower than ever, haven’t had sugar in a month!

    M. Carter wrote on June 13th, 2008
  3. Jim,

    In my estimation, A1C and CRP are two of the most important tests you can get to “see how you’re doing”. Next time you have a check-up, be sure the doc includes both.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 13th, 2008
  4. I come from a family of diabetics. I will turn 30 in 2 weeks, and am the oldest person on my mom’s side of the family to have not developed diabetes or high blood pressure, or both, or worse.

    I spoke with my mom today, and she will be starting insulin soon. I’m actually amazed she’s made it this long without it.

    I can’t say I follow the “primal” diet – I don’t eat much meat for a variety of reasons, and eat much more grains than recommended here. I do, however, eat very differently from the Standard American Diet, and am considering (after the birthday celebrations subside, and after a 3-week visit from a niece who is am ethical vegetarian) trying something more primal, and cutting out most grains for awhile.

    I have been heavily criticized by my family for eating like I do, and being careful about what I give to my children, such as not allowing them to have soda or go to McDonald’s. At the same time, they wonder why I “got lucky” to have such good health and stay thin and fit.

    Hearing from my mom today, I couldn’t help but point out that her health problems, and the overall health of my family, caused my dietary changes, and she finally seemed to understand. She is so addicted to sugar that she is unwilling to give it up.

    I can say, too, that when we travel, we relax a lot (but not all) of our dietary rules, and I eat much more sugar than I normally do – a couple sodas a day (which I don’t ever have at home), the typical hotel breakfast of refined carbs with a side of refined carbs and some trans fats for flavor – and I can definitely feel it, even after just a day or two of the sugar rush. I’m not one to cut it all out completely – I have a little sugar in my morning coffee, and a small piece or two of dark chocolate throughout the day, and I’m sure going to enjoy my birthday cake – but I do believe sugar is the biggest of all evils as far as diet goes, and it pains me to see those I love being such total sugar addicts.

    Judy wrote on June 13th, 2008
  5. Judy,

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is very typical of American households these days. I am glad you have taken charge – even if it seems difficult now. Every little adjustment you make now can have very big benefits in time.

    I hope we can serve as a source of information and inspiration for you.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 14th, 2008
    • Sugar hides so well. It is in most every thing. It makes me feel awful. Tired, cranky and tender. For years I have suffered insulin resistance but through this kind of diet my A1c is well in control. Not easy. I would love to eat a whole peach.

      My husband, over weight on the SAD diet was just shown a high A1c. He is walking almost every day but his cravings are not in control.

      Thanks for your hard work and encouragement. Please, Mark, keep it up. We need you.

      Gail

      Gail wrote on May 15th, 2012
  6. Having high blood sugar doesn’t automatically “mean” diabetes. Blood sugar goes up and down several time per day.
    The fact is that consuming food will spike your blood sugar levels (usually blood sugar levels start increasing within 15 minutes after your meal). If you are not diabetic, blood sugar will soon after drop down again.
    If the study showed a link between having higher levels of blood sugar levels and higher mortality than this might be a good sign to start eating low carb diet or even a diet without carbs (paleo).
    There are some foods that include little to no carbs and will not affect your blood sugar levels (for more information on blood sugar, refer to this article http://healthiack.com/health/what-is-normal-blood-sugar-level). These are foods that have a very low glycemic index. Foods without carbohydrates, including meats, eggs and fish, do not have a GI index ranking and do not have a notable impact on your blood sugar levels.
    I try to eat little carbs and more protein. It works for me!
    Regards, Tim

    tim wrote on January 15th, 2014
  7. is it normal for my blood glucose to rise to 150 after a meal only of protein, fat and veggies? I’m not eating VLC, but I use coconut oil. I eat veggies, one/two servings of fruit and one sweet potato. Should I be concerned? Why does this happen? I though this “physiological insulin resistance” only happened to those who do VLC and have high fasting blood sugar. My fasting blood sugar is always 70.

    maria wrote on January 29th, 2014

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