Postprandial blood glucose level
Metabolic Health
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What Is Postprandial Blood Glucose Levels?

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.

What does postprandial mean? 

One way to analyze your metabolic function is to know how effectively your body can use glucose. This can be done by measuring the fasting blood sugar level which is the sugar level that is unaffected by meals. However, to have a clear picture of your metabolic health you need to measure your blood sugar level after having a meal. This is referred to as blood sugar post-prandial. Postprandial blood sugar offers a detailed analysis of how efficiently our body responds to food. Blood sugar postprandial normal range is measured below 140mg/dL for non-diabetics and below 180mg/dL for diabetics. A sudden response of postprandial blood sugar is usually a spike in blood sugar levels. 

Generally, we have three metabolic periods i.e postprandial, post-absorptive, and fasting. During the postprandial phase, the glucose levels of the body rise which enables the body to regulate and store glucose. Eating high carbs excessively will result in spiked postprandial blood sugar which eventually leads to insulin resistance. Read more to know about what level of blood sugar is dangerous?

Importance of Postprandial Blood Sugar

Be it people with diabetes or without diabetes, managing postprandial blood glucose levels is a must. If you have diabetes, it will form an essential part of your overall diabetes management. Consistent results showing high blood sugar levels mean your current treatment plan needs modification, as it isn’t working correctly. Leaving it unattended can increase the risk of heart diseases, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and other health conditions. 

If you’re non-diabetic, you should still pay special attention to postprandial blood glucose because it gives you a clear idea about your metabolic health. If your glucose levels remain significantly high even after hours of having food, it indicates you may have insulin resistance. But if the sugar levels rise after having food and then come down, there is nothing to worry about. However, for better results, we suggest checking with a doctor. 

There are various reasons why postprandial blood sugar is essential, and we’ve covered below some of the most common ones:

  • Mood Changes

According to a clinical study, huge blood sugar spikes are related to a 38% higher score for depression. It also indicates a 55% increased score for mood disturbances. 

  • Inflammation

Elevated post prandial blood sugar level promotes short-term inflammation, eventually leading to serious long-term health implications.

  • Increased Appetite

People who experience sudden increases and dips in their everyday blood sugar levels are more likely to feel hungry at rapid intervals. It translates to higher calorie consumption than those with moderate changes.

  • Type 2 Diabetes

Consistent high blood sugar levels can most probably damage your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to type 2 diabetes

You should also keep checking the post prandial blood sugar level to avoid any development of obesity, chronic inflammation, heart disease, etc.

Postprandial blood sugar levels

      Category       Postprandial (mg/dl)                                
                        Just after eating   2 hours after consuming glucose
       Normal                170-200                Less than 140          
   Early diabetes            190-230                   140-200            
Established diabetes        230-300                More than 200          

The blood sugar PP normal range in healthy individuals is less than 140mg/dl. The diabetes PP test range is between 140 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl. In elderly patients and patients with established diabetes, the values of postprandial blood sugar can be more than 200 mg/dl. In the case of pregnant women with diabetes, 1-hour postprandial blood glucose values are less than 140 mg/dl, whereas 2-hour postprandial blood glucose values are less than 120 mg/dl.

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What Are Normal And High Levels Of Postprandial Blood Sugar?

Postprandial or pp blood sugar is a phrase used to describe blood sugar levels in humans after consuming a meal. Checking your blood sugar levels after a meal gives you an opportunity to evaluate how well insulin is working in your body. Every time you consume a meal, there is a sharp spike in the amount of sugar in your blood. However, this occurs as a result of the quick absorption of glucose from the meal particles into the blood flow, thus, taking your pp blood sugar levels higher.

The amount of insulin released in the bloodstream is directly proportional to the amount of blood glucose levels and every time you eat something the postprandial blood sugar levels rise and so does insulin, in order to create a balance. Following this, insulin will begin the process of converting glucose molecules into energy molecules. Being mindful of what you consume and the effect it has on your blood sugar levels can greatly help in keeping a check on your diabetes condition. This is why postprandial blood sugar is measured, to determine how food affects a person and it is also used to determine the amount of insulin released. This can be used to gauge if a person is showing signs of diabetes or not and in case your body is not creating an adequate quantity of insulin, corrective measures can be taken. Postprandial sugar levels can be high among people who do not have diabetes as well. 

For people with diabetes, a normal postprandial blood sugar level is less than 180 mg/dL.

People without diabetes should ideally have a post-meal blood sugar level of less than 140 mg/dL to be considered a normal post prandial blood sugar level. 

Anything >200 mg/dL of post-meal blood sugar elevation in people with diabetes is considered dangerous.

How Postprandial Blood Sugar Affects Your Diet?

With every meal we have, the glucose in our bloodstream is bound to rise, whether or not we have diabetes. A one-time surge in postprandial glucose level is not enough reason for panic since it is a typical response to a meal that contains carbohydrates; nonetheless, it may lead to a blood sugar drop around two to three hours after eating, which has its own set of repercussions. Extreme drops in blood glucose may cause an increase in appetite in some cases making people consume a larger than normal or usual amount of food. 

Several studies have been conducted where the blood sugar levels of people with or without diabetes were tested immediately after meals and then a few hours after measuring the initial readings to check if there was a dip in blood sugar levels. When compared to people who experienced blood sugar dips that were more moderate, those who experienced the largest blood sugar dips reported feeling more hungry 2-3 hours after a standardized meal and chose to eat their subsequent meal sooner than usual. These individuals also ate their subsequent meal earlier. The same group ultimately consumed an additional amount of calories on average during the course of the study as they were consuming more food.

According to the findings of this research, levels of glucose in the blood may have an effect on how the brain processes feelings of fullness and on eating habits and subsequently makes an impact on the quantity of food consumed.

Factors Affecting Post-Prandial Blood Sugar Levels

The impact of postprandial blood sugar levels is different for all people even for the same meal. Several factors impact this variation, while some of these factors are in our control, others aren’t. Non-controllable factors include genetics, gut bacteria, etc. and controllable factors include macronutrients, food-related factors, exercise, sleep, etc. Apart from genetic predispositions, here are the factors that are significant when it comes to high postprandial blood sugar levels. 

  • Increased Consumption of Carbohydrates
    Poor dietary decisions are one of the most common reasons for elevated blood sugar levels after a meal. When you consume junk food or meals that are high in calories and carbs, you give your body permission to absorb a greater quantity of glucose molecules than usual. Consuming such items throughout the day causes your body's blood glucose levels to increase, which is another negative effect of doing so. This will not only give out a higher postprandial blood sugar reading but also cause more cravings for carbohydrates throughout the day.
  • Sleep Deprivation
    If you don't get enough sleep, you're more likely to have high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, not to mention causing you to become overweight. Not getting enough sleep makes the body unable to repair and rejuvenate from day to day wear and tear. When taken together, these circumstances may contribute to hyperglycemia, which in turn causes an increase in the amount of sugar that is present in the blood after a meal.
  • Lack of Physical Activity
    It is well known that in order for your body to feel energized and to remain healthy, it requires consistent activity throughout the day. Even if you are unable to exercise on a daily basis, you should try to do so at least three to four times per week. This continuous motion of the body consumes energy, and as a result, the glucose that is already present in your body is used up. Therefore, you should constantly integrate some kind of regular activity into your routine in order to prevent illnesses such as obesity and diabetes as they are closely linked.
  • The state of one's mind
    A person who is depressed or anxious may eat more or less than the average person without even realizing it. This negative emotional state leads to diseases associated with obesity, which in turn makes your body resistant to insulin. After you have developed insulin resistance, you will have a greater propensity toward having higher levels of blood glucose after eating and developing diabetes in the long run.

Normal Post-Prandial Blood Sugar

The blood sugar level after a meal is known as post-prandial blood sugar or post-meal blood sugar. You must maintain your post-prandial sugar within a certain range in order to lead a healthy life. Following are several post-meal blood sugar levels that you should look out for:

For diabetic people, a normal postprandial blood sugar level is less than 180 mg/dL.

Non-diabetics should maintain a post-meal blood sugar level of less than 140 mg/dL.

>200 mg/dL of post-meal blood sugar level is considered highly dangerous.

The range of sugar levels that may be found in your body under various circumstances is represented by the figures above. For instance, you run a substantial risk of hyperglycemia if your postprandial blood sugar is more than 200 mg/dL. A PPBG result of less than 55 mg/dL, however, indicates a dangerous hypoglycemia condition. Your general health will suffer in either scenario. Therefore, it is important to consistently strive for post-prandial blood sugar levels between 140 and 180 mg/dL.

Also read more about random blood sugar normal range

What Test are 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

Who Should Test Their Postprandial Blood Sugar

As discussed above, a postprandial blood sugar level test is for everyone, irrespective of the existing medical health conditions. Even if you are not already diagnosed with diabetes, you should still go for a postprandial blood sugar test as it gives you better clarity of your metabolic health. If you experience an unusually high blood sugar spike consistently after a meal, a pp blood sugar test can help identify problems faster. Since nutrition is personal, different items can increase blood sugar levels. So anyone concerned about their health should test their postprandial blood sugar levels. Whether you are diagnosed with diabetes or not, in any case, having an eye on your postprandial blood sugar levels is essential for all. However, if you observe yourself experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, inflammation, mood swings, spiked appetite, etc. post having your meal then measuring your postprandial blood sugar level will help you to identify the issue easily. Even if you don’t experience any such symptoms, you can benefit from having a detailed picture of your sugar levels as it will help you to know how your body responds to your eating habits and what alterations you need to make in your eating habits. 

How knowing your PPG can give you control over your diabetes?

Having a track of your PPG can help you to deal with diabetes efficiently. If your PPG is spiked daily then you might be at risk of developing certain complications. Measuring PPG makes us aware of the modifications or pre-meal bolus insulin that is required to lower the spiked glucose levels. Checking PPG daily can help you to consume a balanced diet and keep your sugar levels under control. 

What are the ideal values for Postprandial Blood Sugar Levels?

American Diabetes Association (ADA) Recommended PPBS Target Levels

For healthy individuals, the 1-hour PPBS should be below 140mg/dL. However, for a diabetic person, the 1-hour PPBS below 180mg/dL indicates that your blood sugar level is under control and the body cells are effectively responding to glucose. PPBS helps to determine what type of meals suit best for your body. Spiked PPBS indicated that you need to alter your meals. 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.

What Might Affect Postprandial Blood Glucose Test Results?

If you’re going to take a postprandial blood glucose test anytime soon, we suggest following the doctor’s instructions to ensure you get 100% accurate results. These results can easily be influenced if you are under extreme stress, have exercised during the testing period, smoked cigarettes during the testing period, had a snack after your meal and just before the test, etc. So it is fairly suggested to stay away from these practices during the testing period to ensure the test results remain unaffected.

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.

FAQs

What should a postprandial blood glucose level be?

Postprandial blood sugar is one of the tools to control glycemic levels. An ideal postprandial sugar level is different for different age groups of people. Ideally, for people having diabetes a normal blood glucose level should be less than 180 mg/ dL. However, the ideal glucose level for people without diabetes should be 140 mg/dL. Although to know the ideal glucose level according to your age you should get yourself tested.

What should blood sugar be 3 hours after eating?

The blood sugar level post 3 hours of having a meal should be ideally under 100 mg/ dL. If you have your sugar levels under control then post having a meal your blood glucose should be 90-130 mg/dL for four hours after having a meal. However, if you are a non-diabetic person then your blood sugar can be around 140mg/dL after having meals.

What is a normal 2 hour postprandial blood glucose level?

Postprandial blood glucose level post having a meal varies for the different age groups. Normally, if you haven’t had any meal for around 8 hours then your blood glucose levels will be less than 100 mg/ dL. Though levels tend to be lower before eating meals, for those who have diabetes mellitus their blood sugar levels after 2 hours of having a meal should be less than 180mg/ dL and for a non-diabetic person the level should be less than 140mg/dL.

Does the postprandial blood glucose levels test pose any risks?

Having a blood test with the help of a needle always comes with certain risks. Feeling lightheaded, bleeding, bruising, and risk of infection are some of the risks associated with this test. Moreover, when the needle is pricked, you may feel slight discomfort or pain in and around the area.

How is the postprandial blood glucose test done?

It is conducted in a reasonably similar manner to the normal blood sugar tests. However, the only difference is the person taking the test is required to fast for at least 12 hours before the test. Food worth 75 grams of carbs can be taken after the test. Another point to note is that during the two-hour waiting window, you are not supposed to exercise, smoke, have sugary food, or stress too much about things.

How do I get ready for the test?

To get your postprandial blood sugar test done, you must fast for at least 12 hours before taking the test. If you are pregnant, you may not keep a 12-hour long fast, but consulting the doctor is the best option. And to get the most accurate results, make sure you don’t stress about anything or exercise during the two-hour waiting period during the test phase.

Is PPG the same as diabetes? 

No, Postprandial glucose is the test that is done to determine the sugar levels post having a meal. It reveals the amount of glucose in the plasma, post having a meal. Usually, this test is associated with postprandial hyperglycemia as there is not enough evidence revealing its direct relation with the diagnosis of diabetes. 

What is the relationship between PPG, FPG, and HbA1c?

There is a strong association between PPG and FPG with HbA1c. As per research, PPG shows a closer relation to HbA1c than FPG. To know the good glycemic control which is HbA1c < 7.0%, the values for sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value for both PPG and FPG are as follows.

PPG- 75.0%, 80.6%, and 82.5% respectively.

FPG- 81.8%, 58.3%, and 70.6% respectively. 

 The above data determines that PPG is strongly associated with HbA1c as compared to FPG. 

References

  • https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/how-manage-blood-sugar-spikes-after-meal
  • https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/24/4/775/23438/Postprandial-Blood-Glucose
  • https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=glucose_two_hour_postprandial
  • https://www.levelshealth.com/blog/what-is-postprandial-blood-sugar-and-why-does-it-matter
  • https://joinzoe.com/learn/postprandial-blood-sugar
  • https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/type-2-diabetes-management/postprandial-glucose/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352876/
  • https://www.healthifyme.com/blog/post-prandial-blood-sugar/

Disclaimer

This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.