Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

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 own.

"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 it."

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.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner