This kitchen staple may be able to help with certain kinds of hypoglycemia. But when blood sugar drops to 70 mg/dL, any cornstarch treatment may not work, and you may need emergency medical help.

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Hypoglycemia can develop for a number of reasons and is the result of a dangerously low level of glucose in your blood.

People with different forms of diabetes, especially those who use insulin, tend to be most sensitive to fluctuations in blood glucose levels. But research suggests that uncooked cornstarch may help with long-term blood sugar management.

This article will investigate how cornstarch affects your blood sugar levels and what benefits it might offer for heading off hypoglycemia.

Every food you eat breaks down into glucose in your body. Glucose is the simplest form of energy for your body to process, and you need an almost-constant supply of it in your bloodstream to keep the basic functions of your body going.

Different foods contain varying amounts and types of sugar, and different types of sugar affect your blood glucose levels differently. Starches and carbohydrates, such as cornstarch, have some of the highest levels of glucose, but it’s important to remember that not all forms of glucose are equal.

Sugary foods contain simple forms of glucose that your body digests and uses quickly. This means foods high in added sugar will raise your blood sugar sharply but not for long.

Starches are a more complex form of carbohydrate, which means your body uses them more conservatively. They will increase your blood sugar levels, but the increase won’t be as drastic and your levels will remain stable longer.

Cornstarch has been used for decades as a way to help stabilize blood sugar levels for longer periods.

Uncooked cornstarch is a low glycemic food, which means it does not cause a dramatic rise in blood sugar. Because cornstarch is a complex carbohydrate, it can maintain your blood sugar level longer.

This means it can be especially helpful for people who become hypoglycemic at night or during other periods when they aren’t eating.

In general, hypoglycemia is defined as a blood sugar level below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). More severe hypoglycemia occurs at levels of 55 mg/dL or lower, and those lower levels may mean emergency medical attention is needed.

As a low glycemic food, cornstarch provides a steady supply of glucose to your body without causing a sharp rise and fall.

A low glycemic food such as cornstarch will stabilize your blood sugar levels better and for longer than foods that have a higher glycemic index.

Ketotic hypoglycemia is a particular form of low blood sugar that is a common cause of hypoglycemia in children. It can be linked to a variety of metabolic and hormonal diseases, but in most cases it has no known cause.

Your blood sugar level naturally drops between meals, and when glucose levels in your bloodstream fall, your body starts to break down stored fats for energy.

The use of these fats creates a substance in your body called ketones. In small doses, ketones can give your body the boost of energy it needs to survive periods of fasting. But in higher doses, ketones can build up to toxic levels, producing these symptoms:

  • dizziness
  • shakiness
  • sweating
  • fruity-smelling breath
  • irritability
  • confusion

Ketotic hypoglycemia is the result of your body’s attempt to self-regulate lowering your blood sugar levels in times of fasting. It often develops in young children after a night of sleep without eating.

Uncooked cornstarch is one way to help keep blood sugar levels consistent, as it takes 3–4 hours for your body to digest and use this carbohydrate.

How do different foods affect your glucose levels?

Different foods break down differently in your body. More complex carbohydrates and proteins take longer to digest and can keep your blood sugar stable for longer periods.

Simple sugars, such as processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup, will raise your blood sugar more quickly because they are rapidly broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream.

You can read more here about high and low glycemic index foods and how they affect your blood glucose levels.

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Cornstarch in its common, powdered form is not very palatable, so it’s usually prepared into some form of snack or drink to supplement blood sugar levels.

This could be a paste, a drink, a shake, or even a tube feeding.

For infants and children who experience overnight hypoglycemia, a bedtime snack made with a homemade uncooked cornstarch product or a commercial supplement that includes uncooked cornstarch can be helpful to stabilize blood sugar levels until morning.

Uncooked cornstarch might not sound like an appealing bedtime snack, but for people — especially young children — whose blood sugar levels drop dangerously low overnight and between meals, this carbohydrate-rich powder is a readily available way to help prevent hypoglycemia overnight.

You can talk with your healthcare team about treatment options if you’re experiencing frequent or repeated episodes of hypoglycemia or if you lose consciousness when your blood glucose drops. In these cases, cornstarch is not the best option, and you may need other fast-acting glucose treatments (such as juice or glucose tablets) to address low blood sugar levels.