Metabolic Health

Postprandial Blood Glucose Levels

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Measuring Blood Glucose Levels is an essential step in managing diabetes. One such important tool used for glycemic control is Postprandial Blood Sugar (PPBS). Postprandial or Post-Meal Blood Glucose Levels refers to the blood sugar levels after having a meal. Currently, Diabetes screening uses the fasting metabolic state to determine the risk of metabolic health. But recent studies have stated that one criteria for a test to be considered as an acceptable and reliable way to predict metabolic health, is that the test should be able to detect the preclinical stage of condition which is often missed when checking fasting blood sugars.

This is where Post-Meal blood sugar becomes an important factor in assessing the body's ability to respond to sugar spikes, thus providing you with a better picture of your metabolic health. Let's see and learn why Post-meal sugar levels are critical in the management of Diabetes.  

Do Postprandial Blood Glucose levels matter?

Postprandial Blood Sugar (PPBS) is primarily used to diagnose Diabetes, detect complications of diabetes and to track the results of diabetes treatment. Studies show that postprandial sugar levels is a better marker than fasting glucose levels, independent of meal intake. Your pancreas secrete a hormone called Insulin which helps to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. Postprandial sugar levels provide you a clear glimpse of your insulin sensitivity and how efficiently this hormone is working to uptake glucose from the blood and into your cells after a meal.

Normally, it takes about 10 minutes post meal for the carbohydrates present in the meal to cause a rise in your blood glucose levels. This rise in sugar levels triggers your pancreas to secrete insulin which brings the sugar levels in the bloodstream. back to normal in 3-4 hours.

In Prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, the mechanism of controlling sugar levels is impaired due to either the pancreas not secreting insulin or secreting a very small quantity of insulin which is not effective enough to control sugar levels. This leads to a state of continuously raised postprandial sugar levels which over time leads to insulin resistance. Research shows that elevated 1-hour level proves significant even if the 2-hour levels were within normal glucose tolerance range.

What is the Test is used to measure Postprandial Blood Sugar Levels?

There are two common methods used to perform the postprandial glucose blood sugar test.  

1. Post-Meal Blood Sugar Check

    Eat a normal meal lasting no longer than 20 minutes and then check your PPBS exactly 2 hours after the start of the meal.

2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

    After fasting overnight, drink the high sugar beverage (usually 75g Glucose) given by your doctor, finish it within 20     minutes and then check your PPBS exactly 2 hours after the drink was started. Diabetes is diagnosed at 2 hour blood     sugar of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl

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What are the ideal values for Postprandial Blood Sugar Levels?

American Diabetes Association (ADA) Recommended PPBS Target Levels

A 1-Hour PPBS below 180 mg/dL indicates that your Beta cells are still preserved and can be brought back to a healthy state.

Why is it problematic to have continuously elevated Postprandial Blood Sugars?

Elevated levels of sugar even after 4 hours may indicate that insulin is not working to uptake the sugar back into the cells. Too much sugar in the blood is not desirable, and if this condition persists, the person becomes susceptible to Diabetes. This compromises glucose metabolism and has a huge impact on other parts of the body. It gives rise to a wide array of complications causing weakening of the nerves, kidney dysfunction, and eye damage.

Too much blood sugar induces oxidative stress in the body, leading to the production of free radicals. These free radicals damage the body cells, creating the imbalance capacity of the body to counter this effect via antioxidants. Increased levels of oxidative stress damage the blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular complications, like atherosclerosis and heart damage. Recent studies have pointed out that postprandial blood sugar level is also an important indicator of heart-related issues in comparison with fasting blood sugar.

Are High Postprandial Blood Sugar an issue for Non-Diabetics?

Glucose levels in the blood elevate when food is introduced into the body.  The pancreas then releases insulin into the bloodstream.  Insulin assists the body in transferring glucose from the bloodstream into tissue and fat cells, where it can be stored for energy.  When the system is working, blood glucose levels should be back to normal within 2 hours of eating.  

In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas may not produce the proper amount of insulin, or there may be insulin-blocking cells that stop the insulin from transferring the glucose.  In this case the glucose level would still be elevated 2 hours after eating. Increased levels of blood sugar or hyperglycemia, even if you are not diabetic, can increase your chance of contracting this condition in the future.

Bottom Line

Diabetes can usually be managed with insulin, medication, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.  Early detection and continued vigilance in monitoring of blood glucose levels is imperative when treating diabetes.  If diabetes is left untreated, the elevated levels of insulin in the blood can result in a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, organ failure, foot ulcers, and blindness.  

Postprandial glucose levels are soon becoming the ideal way to assess the functioning of your beta cells. The 1-hour measurement is more sensitive than the 2-hour value for identifying high-risk individuals, predict risk of diabetes complications, mortality, and hence may end up replacing the traditional 2-hour test in clinical practice.

PPBS is required to manage diabetes and identify impaired blood glucose levels. The levels are also influenced by diet types, frequency and sleep cycles, making it all the more critical to get yourself screened even if you're not diabetic. In fact, even apparently healthy individuals should test for diabetes, and those who are at higher risk like obesity should be tested more frequently.

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