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Blood Sugar Levels and Chronic Diseases: What’s the Link?

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  Published on February 4th, 2020
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified January 13th, 2023

Heart disease, diabetes, hormone imbalances, and even Alzheimer’s disease have one thing in common: they are all affected by high blood sugar levels. In fact, high blood sugar is at the root of many health problems – no thanks to the standard American diet (SAD).

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels (and reversing insulin resistance if it’s already in play) is essential for a healthy mind and body.


What Is Insulin Resistance?

We know that high blood sugar isn’t ideal, but before we can understand how blood sugar levels affect chronic diseases, we first need to explore insulin and insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. After you eat, insulin helps your cells get energy by ushering glucose out of your blood and into your cells. Whatever sugar (energy) is left, the body stores it in fat cells to use later. [1]

If blood sugar levels are elevated, the pancreas produces more insulin to remove excess sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells to use as energy. It’s normal for insulin to remove sugar from the blood and move it into your cells, but problems arise when there is always too much sugar and too much insulin.

Eventually, your cells will become resistant to the constant barrage of insulin. This leads to too much sugar in the blood – and insulin resistance.

What Are the Signs of High Blood Sugar Levels?

High blood sugar isn’t an abstract concept. You can measure your blood sugar levels with glucose monitors. However, you’ll probably notice the signs of insulin resistance even without a blood test.

Below is a list of the most common signs of high blood sugar and insulin resistance:

  • Extreme thirst and hunger – no amount of drinking or eating can make you feel satisfied
  • Fatigue, especially after meals
  • Intense cravings for sweets or sugary foods – and indulging doesn’t satisfy those cravings either
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Aches and pains
  • Difficulty falling asleep


The Insulin Connection: Diseases Caused by Sugar

There’s no denying that insulin resistance causes some pretty annoying symptoms like intense cravings. But insulin resistance and high blood sugar is more than just a minor inconvenience – it can cause serious chronic conditions.

Once insulin resistance develops, the body is left with high blood sugar and too much insulin circulating throughout the blood. When hyperglycemia – which is the technical name for high blood sugar – develops, the excess sugar damages the blood vessels, frequently causing inflammation, hormone imbalances, and more. Because blood vessels supply blood and nutrients to major organs – like the heart – those organs then become affected. [2]

Inflammation and disrupted hormones caused by high blood sugar directly contribute to specific diseases and conditions, including:

  • Diabetes (Eating too much sugar isn’t the only culprit here. Because carbohydrates are metabolized as sugar, eating a high-carb and high-sugar diet contributes to the development of diabetes.)
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) [3]
  • High testosterone levels in women
  • High estrogen levels in men
  • Thyroid resistance and hypothyroid symptoms
  • Alzheimer’s disease (Experts at Mayo Clinic have studied the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s and find that the blood vessel damage in the brain from high blood sugar levels increases the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. [4]
  • Increased gut permeability [5]
  • Higher levels of the bad cholesterol [6]
  • Heart disease (Research shows that diets with high sugar consumption increase the risk of developing heart disease by 98 percent. [7]
  • Cancer (Research shows that high blood sugar levels and high sugar consumption increase the risk of developing several different types of cancer, including colon cancer. [8]


Breaking the Cycle and Taking Control of Your Blood Sugar Levels

Insulin resistance is sparked by a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet. Adopting foods rich in high-quality proteins and fats can help to balance your blood sugar levels, improve your brain health, and reduce your risk of developing these chronic diseases.

Kathryn Trudeau is a content writer and educational professional whose work centers on health and wellness and organic living. She has a passion for nutrition and fitness. She loves matcha, running, and crocheting.



Wilcox G. Insulin and insulin resistance. Clin Biochem Rev. 2005;26(2):19–39.


Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European journal of clinical nutrition, 67(8), 789.


“The Link between Diabetes and Alzheimers.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 May 2019.


Scheithauer, Torsten P M, et al. “Causality of Small and Large Intestinal Microbiota in Weight Regulation and Insulin Resistance.” Molecular Metabolism, Elsevier, 10 June 2016.


Aeberli, Isabelle, et al. “Low to Moderate Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Impairs Glucose and Lipid Metabolism and Promotes Inflammation in Healthy Young Men: a Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2011.


Liu, S, et al. “A Prospective Study of Dietary Glycemic Load, Carbohydrate Intake, and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in US Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2000.


Bostick, R M, et al. “Sugar, Meat, and Fat Intake, and Non-Dietary Risk Factors for Colon Cancer Incidence in Iowa Women (United States).”Cancer Causes & Control : CCC, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 1994.

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