If you’re getting ready for the glucose challenge diabetes screening test, you might have already heard something about glucola drinks and gels.

Glucola is a highly concentrated, noncarbonated beverage. During the glucose challenge screening test, you drink it quickly and wait an hour. A blood sample is collected at the end of the hour to test your body’s response to sugar.

The drink is powerfully sweet and contains a lot of sugar. Some people don’t like the way it tastes, and others are concerned about the ingredients used.

Let’s take a look at what glucola really contains, why it’s used, and if there are any other alternatives for diabetes screening.

Drinking glucola is as close as you can get to drinking pure sugar.

One serving of glucola contains 50 grams of sugar. The sugar in glucola is dextrose, an ingredient in corn syrup.

It also contains purified water and the preservative sodium benzoate.

Typically, the drink is orange-flavored, in which case it also contains orange food coloring. There’s also a lemon-lime flavor that doesn’t have any food coloring added.

Whichever flavor you get, glucola tastes like flat, highly concentrated soda. It’s extremely sweet, to the point where it may not taste good on your tongue. Glucola is best served cold.

Glucola is used to test how your body reacts to glucose. Basically, it creates a measurement that shows your doctor how quickly your body can clear a high level of glucose from your blood. It can be used to screen for:

Every provider might have a slightly different protocol for the glucose challenge test. But in general, here’s what to expect. The test may take place in a:

  • lab
  • hospital
  • healthcare professional’s office

If you’re pregnant, you’ll be scheduled for this test somewhere between 24 and 28 weeks.

What to expect

  • You’ll be instructed to fast for 2 hours before you drink the glucola drink. Then, you’ll be given a chilled serving of glucola in a small bottle.
  • You’ll be instructed to drink the contents of the bottle within 5 minutes, noting when you are finished drinking it.
  • Next, the waiting begins. You’ll have to wait between 45 minutes to an hour before a blood sample can be taken. If you are screening for gestational diabetes, you may have to wait and have your blood drawn at several time intervals.
  • If you’re not taking a test to screen for gestational diabetes, you may have to wait 2 hours.

Gestational diabetes

If you are pregnant, the blood sample will show whether your glucose level is below 140 milliliters (considered normal) or above 140 milligrams per deciliter (considered abnormal) after 1 hour.

You may have to get several more blood draws to see how your blood glucose reacts over the course of a few hours. It may take 1 or 2 days to get your result.

Nongestational diabetes

If the test is to screen for nongestational diabetes, the test result will show as normal, impaired or borderline, or abnormal. The amounts will vary depending on how long you have to wait before the blood draw.

If your result is abnormal, your doctor will recommend further testing.

Glucola has a lot of sugar in it. You may experience some brief side effects after you drink it, such as:

  • elevated heart rate
  • a sugar “crash” once the energy from sugar wears off
  • nausea
  • feeling thirsty for water or wanting to drink something else to get the taste out of your mouth

As of now, there are some alternative methods for diabetes screening that don’t involve glucola, but they aren’t very common.

A 1995 study and a 2013 study showed that licorice and jelly beans produce similar results for healthcare professionals screening for gestational diabetes.

But the results from the above alternatives to glucola aren’t often accepted as an objective measure of how your body handles 50 grams of glucose.

For now, glucola is still seen as the medical standard for this type of testing.

If you are pregnant, you may choose to opt-out of the glucose challenge. However, many people with gestational diabetes don’t have any symptoms. For this reason, opting out is not recommended.

In general, glucola is safe for most people to drink for the glucose challenge test. Although, it wouldn’t be good for you to drink every day.

If you have concerns about what’s in the drink, you should speak with your healthcare professional.

After you take the glucose challenge test, chances are that you won’t be craving glucola again anytime soon. But even though it doesn’t taste the greatest, the ingredients are safe for most people and won’t hurt you or your baby, if you’re pregnant.

If you’re curious about alternatives to drinking glucola, speak with your doctor.