Glucose Testing: After Meals?
Should diabetics test their blood sugars after eating, too? The debate continues.
The Problems continued...
"I think that the recent attention to postprandial glycemia
is a distraction," says David M. Nathan, MD, director of the diabetes
center at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard
Medical School. "In general, postprandial glycemia, fasting glycemia, and
chronic glycemia, as measured by the A1c test are highly correlated. Attention
should just be focused on overall lower glycemia."
Nathan points to the biggest problem with the postprandial
hyperglycemia hypothesis. While epidemiological research has suggested a
connection between postprandial hyperglycemia and diabetic complications, this
sort of research looks at a large number of variables and isn't designed to
test postprandial hyperglycemia specifically. There isn't yet a method to
single out the particular effects of postprandial hyperglycemia from other
common risk factors like hyperglycemia, obesity, and hypertension. As a result,
there's no way to know if postprandial glucose levels really matter on their
"I just don't think postprandial testing is worth putting
energy into now, because if you look for other risk factors of diabetes, you
will find all of these people anyway," says David E. Goldstein, MD,
principal investigator from the health sciences center at the University of
Missouri School of Medicine. "There just isn't evidence that postprandial
glucose levels matter independent of other factors, like A1c."
"But it's a hot topic now, though," Goldstein says
wearily. "It's a snake pit, or a bottomless pit. I don't know what to call
Detecting and Treating Postprandial Hyperglycemia
While the significance of postprandial testing and the
standards for doing it haven't been firmly established, proponents like
Goldstein and Ganda ask their patients to keep a log of blood sugars before and
after a certain meal each day for a few weeks before a doctor's visit; that
way, they can see whether there are any worrying spikes in the glucose levels
above 140 mg/dL.
Treatment for postprandial hyperglycemia can include behavioral
techniques such as exercise and weight loss, and medication. One ongoing study,
the European Study to Prevent Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes (STOP-NIDDM),
seems to show that treatment of people with IGT -- based on postprandial blood
sugars -- with the drug acarbose (Precose or Prandase) helped prevent the onset
of type 2 diabetes and reduced the risks of cardiovascular problems. In his
practice, Goldstein has had success using sulfonylureas and fast-acting
insulins in reducing postprandial blood sugar levels.