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The Latest Tests Available To Assess Insulin Sensitivity And Blood Glucose

Insulin sensitivity and blood glucose testing is something that anyone who is borderline pre-diabetic will want to consider having done.

The more you know about how your insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, the better you’ll be able to make the most appropriate dietary changes for your unique needs.

In today’s post we’ll be discussing the various tests used to measure insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels. This will give you a better understanding of the various assessments and their uses.

More after the jump…

We’ve discussed the importance of insulin resistance as a precursor for Type II Diabetes in other posts on this site, but I will reiterate real quick insulin’s role in the body.

Glucose is a single chain sugar (monosaccharide) which is a primary source of energy for the body. The majority of carbohydrates are broken down to glucose to be used in the Krebs Cycle for energy production.

However, our cells lack an ability to freely let glucose in, where it can be metabolized to give us energy. This is where insulin comes in – insulin acts as a special gate-agent, letting glucose piggy-back its way through a special receptor in the cell membrane.

When we eat carbohydrates and it’s digested, glucose enters the blood stream and our pancreas secretes insulin in to carry it to the cells. The more sugars and starch you consume, which spikes blood sugar levels, the more insulin your pancreas will end up releasing.

Over time this leads to something called “insulin resistance”. Ideally we want our insulin to be very sensitive to glucose, constantly able to respond appropriately to the presence of it in our blood and able to transport it into our cells.

If we have frequently high spikes in blood sugar, with resulting higher spikes in insulin to compensate, we decrease this sensitivity.

This stage of insulin resistance can last for years, even decades, before developing into full blown Type II Diabetes.

Tests for Type II Diabetes have historically focused on the amount of glucose that is currently circulating in the blood.

These tests include a fasting glucose test, where blood is measured on a glucometer after you have fasted overnight, or an oral glucose tolerance test, where blood is measured for two hours after you have consumed a set amount of pure carbohydrate.

The fasting glucose test is great for diagnosing diabetes, but does not show how well your insulin is responding to a dose of glucose in the blood (i.e. does not test your insulin sensitivity).

Fasting glucose levels of 100 to 125 mg/dl are above normal, but not high enough for the individual to be considered type II diabetic.

This would indicate a “pre-diabetic state” but additional information would be helpful on assessing insulin sensitivity.

The oral glucose tolerance test does a better job at showing a general idea of your insulin sensitivity because it does look at the response your body has after a dose of glucose is introduced.

A blood glucose level between 140 to 200 mg/dl would indicate a high reading, but not high enough for the individual to be considered type II diabetic.

However even this test does not give us an entire picture. This is because many factors can influence glucose uptake, including other hormones circulating in the blood, fatigue, and certain medications.

A more recent addition to the testing line for diabetes is called the Hemoglobin A1-C test (HbA1C). Our blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which essentially carries the oxygen in our blood.

When there is a build-up of glucose in the blood, this oxygen becomes glycated. The HbA1C test, which measures this glycated tail on the hemoglobin molecule, is useful in showing how much glucose has been in the blood for the last three months.

This provides a better overall picture of glucose control (and thus insulin sensitivity) in your body.

One of the most widely used tests for looking at insulin sensitivity is called the fasting-insulin test. Similar to the fasting glucose test, it requires an eight- twelve hour fast before the blood is drawn.

Quite frequently a combination of the above tests will be used to assess the individuals insulin sensitivity and blood glucose uptake.

If you feel you have symptoms of insulin resistance or being pre-diabetic including feeling sluggish after eating, excess weight gain, and overall lethargy, talk to your doctor about which tests may be right for you.

Shaping Concepts is the leader in Charleston personal training specializing in weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. Burst training workouts and supportive nutrition strategies are used in combination with a wide array of hormonal and metabolic testing. Each program is customized to the unique needs of the client and includes hands-on coaching and accountability. Sign up for a free no-obligations consultation and trial today.

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