How does glucose affect diabetes?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

This is a very interesting question because having the right amount of glucose available in our blood (about a teaspoon) is very important...glucose fuels our muscles and our brain and is our best source of energy. But having too much glucose (hyperglycemia) or too little (hypoglycemia) in our blood can be dangerous.

Many of the carbohydrate foods we eat are converted to glucose during digestion, then absorbed into our blood. This spike in blood glucose signals the release of insulin which helps stash extra glucose away for use later and our blood sugar level would return to that "normal" level. When the "insulin system" is not working correctly and blood glucose stays high we have diabetes. Diabetes is defined by high blood glucose- too much glucose in our blood for too long after eating.

So it's hard to say how "glucose affects diabetes". Our blood glucose response defines diabetes. But, if we already have diabetes and carefully follow a management plan (medical, diet, exercise) we can often control our blood glucose response fairly well. Keeping blood glucose levels close to normal range can help reduce the risk for the "complications" of eyes, kidneys, heart, etc. that poorly controlled diabetes can bring.

Glucose is a natural sugar that provides cells with energy. The presence of glucose in the blood stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin. The insulin facilitates the transport of glucose from the blood into the cells where it is used. If not enough insulin is secreted, the glucose blood level remains high. Consistently high blood glucose levels caused by insufficient insulin is diabetes mellitus.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.