The body’s blood sugar range is carefully controlled in a healthy individual, which will usually measure 80 mg/dl in the blood. So, how much actual sugar (or glucose) is in the body?
The human body contains approximately 5 liters of blood. This amounts to 4 grams of sugar in the blood, which is less than a teaspoon of sugar!
The American Diabetes Association draws the line between a healthy individual and someone being pre-diabetic at 100 mg/dl. This 100 mg/dl amounts to about 1 teaspoon.
For someone to be diagnosed as diabetic, her fasting blood sugar is over 126 mg/dl. For this person, the amount of sugar in her body is about 1 ¼ teaspoons.
This tells us that the amount of sugar is very carefully regulated: the difference between being healthy and being diagnosed as diabetic is a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar.
A few take-home points:
1. The reason why nutritionists think that carbohydrates are the “preferred” fuel of the body, which is wrong, is that your cells will burn carbohydrates before they burn fat. They do so because that’s how the body keeps blood sugar levels in check. And as you can see above, blood sugar levels are exquisitely regulated.
2. Think about eating an extra-value meal at McDonald’s, for example, 2 cheeseburgers, a large order of fries, ketchup, and a coke. This amounts to 230 grams of carbohydrates which converts to 230 grams of sugar, or about 46 teaspoons of sugar. That’s putting in your body 46 times the amount of sugar required to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
3. There is no dietary requirement for carbohydrates. The body can manufacture its own sugar (via a process called gluconeogenesis) from fat and protein. Body fat, for example, is stored as triglyceride, which is three fatty acids (“tri”) bound by a glycerine molecule (“glyceride”). Six percent of the energy stored in body fat is actually in this glycerol backbone. And glycerol can be used to make glucose.
Diabetes rates have effectively tripled in the past 30 years. There are approximately 26 million people with diabetes, and 80 million with prediabetes, in the US, which accounts for over one-third of the population. Diabetes is a disease of high blood sugar. It makes intuitive sense that the less sugar - keeping in mind that starch, and other complex carbohydrates, are nothing more than chains of sugar molecules that get broken down in the body - we put in our bodies, the less likely we will be to develop prediabetes, and ultimately, diabetes.