Glucose – A sweet molecule. What causes high or low glucose?

Date: 11/02/2019

By K Patel, MD, MPH | My Health One Place

Image Source: PubChem National Institute of Health

What is Glucose?

The word Glucose is derived from French modification of Greek word “gleukos” which means sweet. It is widely available in nature and is one of the common byproducts of carbohydrate. When you consume Glucose containing food (carbohydrate), it breaks down to glucose after digestion in the GI system and is absorbed in the blood circulation and reaches various cells of the body. The cells thereby use Glucose as fuel and convert it into energy to perform various bodily functions. Energy can be derived from fat and proteins as well, however some of the parts of the body like brain and red blood cells use only Glucose for energy. Hence, certain amount of carbohydrate intake is very important for normal functioning of body. Complex carbohydrates are better than simple carbohydrates as they release the Glucose slowly and thereby have low glycemic index. Glucose level in the body is regulated by various factors however the most important gland that controls it is Pancreas which releases hormones like Insulin and Glucagon to keep the Glucose levels in check.

Glucose is a part of commonly used labs – metabolic panels.

Normal Glucose range: 65 – 99 mg/dL (range may vary among various labs)

Fasting blood glucose of > 126 and random blood glucose levels of > 200 is suggestive of diabetes.

What are the common causes of low Glucose?

Not eating for a long time/ fasting

Medications used in diabetes like Insulin, sulfonylureas etc.

Deficiency of hormone – Cortisol, Glucagon

Insulin secreting tumors

Critical illness like kidney failure, heart failure, liver failure, sepsis

What are the common causes of high Glucose?

Eating too much sugar/carbohydrate

Lack of physical activity

Diabetes type 1 or 2

Excess of hormones that increase glucose like Cortisol (Cushing’s syndrome)

Medications like steroids (prednisone, solumedrol etc.), antipsychotics used for psychiatric problems and some other medications

Physical or emotional stress




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