Up until now I’ve merely glanced at the FoodBabe’s unscientific mumbo jumbo and chemically implausible claims about a variety of “toxins” in foods, but now I hear she has her sights sets on the Glucola.

For those of your who don’t know the Glucola is the common name used for the sugary drinkimgres-1 that doctors and midwives and nurse practitioners give their pregnant patients to screen for diabetes. Screening for diabetes in pregnancy is recommended as high blood sugar is associated with a number of bad outcomes for both baby and mother. Am affected baby can have dangerously low blood sugar at birth, has a greater risk of needing care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and babies with gestational diabetes can be too large to deliver vaginally. This leads to more c-sections and sometimes if a vaginal delivery is attempted and the baby is too large it can get stuck with its head out of the vagina but shoulders trapped underneath the pubic bone. This is called a shoulder dystocia and is a true obstetrical emergency as the baby is without oxygen for most of the time it is stuck. There is also concern that exposure to elevated glucose levels during pregnancy could lead a higher risk of obesity and diabetes for the baby later in life. Mothers with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially very serious and even life threatening condition involving high-blood pressure in pregnancy. Furthermore (if all that were not enough) women with GDM have a 60% risk of developing type 2 DM later in life.

The Glucola. It tastes nasty, no getting around that, but that’s not because of some harmful ingredient but because it has so much sugar. We use the Glucola to test for diabetes because we need to know the response to an exact amount of sugar with a predictable absorption.

The Glucola contains chemicals because everything that we ingest is a chemical. Chemicals are not bad. Dihydrogen oxide is a chemical, but that doesn’t make it scary it just makes it water.

The FoodBabe is worried about the Glucola. I received some tweets about it today, but she’s apparently been on the case of Big -Glucola (and the doctors who dangerously recommend this shocking drink!) for a while. One of her biggest concerns is brominated vegetable oil. There is a nice review of the science at snopes.com. Basically, you would have to chronically consume 2-8 liters of soda with brominated vegetable oil a day to even be at risk for an issue (even with that excessive consumption we are only talking about two documented cases of health concerns). A woman should be no more worried about toxic effects of Glucola then a can of Coke during her pregnancy.

But we don’t need to be concerned about the Glucola’s “toxicity” because it has been extensively tested. I think it is fair to say that no other substance consumed by pregnant women has been better tested. Thousands and thousands of women have taken it in highly monitored clinical trials that were specifically designed to look at outcomes for both mom and baby. There are a few reviews here and here and there is simply no evidence anywhere to support any kind of health problem apart from the unpleasantness of the taste and temporary nausea, headache and sweating experienced by some women (due to the rapid sugar load).

But the lack of science doesn’t stop the FoodBabe. After raising her spurious claims, even though she is not a doctor or midwife or nurse, she offers potentially dangerous medical advice on her website, such as

An even better option that you can discuss with your doctor would be to avoid the test altogether and monitor your blood sugar with a glucometer throughout your pregnancy, as recommended herehere and here. This is the best alternative because you won’t create an extreme blood sugar spike, and can stick to your regular healthy diet.      

Her methods are not recommended by doctors as they have been tested and failed to identify a large proportion of women who have gestational diabetes.

She also links to a woman who recommends a banana (completely untested) and Jelly Bean studies.  It is true researchers did look at Jelly Beans (not to avoid toxins, but to make the test cheaper on more palatable). A couple of older very small studies suggested that this might be a strategy, but these studies are under powered to say jelly beans are an effective screening tool for gestational diabetes.

Alternative methods of screening for gestational diabetes have actually been the subject of a Cochrane review. The only two non-Glucola like studies to pass muster for review included a study of a candy bar (82 women) and another adding glucose to food (30 women).  These studies were insufficient to draw any kind of meaningful conclusions and if a doctor were to recommend unproved, “alternative” methods of testing for gestational diabetes and a patient had her diabetes missed and then had a bad outcome that doctor would be guilty of malpractice.

We have thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of women taking the Glucola in pregnancy with follow-up in rigorous clinical trials and not one documented medical risk has appeared from the drink. Add to that the only risk of brominated vegetable oil appears to have happened to two people who consumed liters of soda daily.

Would it be nice if there were a better tasting Glucola? Sure, but given the sugar load, the precision required, and the nausea-prone pregnant digestive system I have no idea what that might be.

The FoodBabe offers zero science to back up her claims that doctors are trying to poison pregnant women and babies all the while offering potentially dangerous medical advice.

The Glucola isn’t toxic, but the FoodBabe’s advice might be.

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  1. OK, it’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten what the test solution strength was and Google’s results are hopelessly entangled with food blab crap results and well, I do work midnight shift and I’m getting dangerously close to noon and am exhausted.
    What’s the concentration of glucose?
    As one of the weird folks that actually enjoys the taste of glucose, even the past in an EMS pack, I’m curious.

    That all said, why anyone considers food blab worthy of interest is beyond me. She’s more wrong than a clock that was exploded, rather than being broken and right twice a day.

    Oh and to be utterly honest, I’m deficient on my homework due to fatigue and physical pain, both from an older shoulder injury that I need to get PT on ASAP and newer neuropathic pain, suggestive of a disc issue and spinal cord, alas, the insurance company has rationing, erm, rules.
    The spasms alarmed doctor enough to place me on hydrocodone 10 mg/ 325 mg APAP, half tablet, PRN Q8 or full tablet, same schedule.
    Trying the latter worked well initially, I’ve tapered back, due to the usual complaint of opioids, nausea and some alarm. No need for tolerance or dependence.
    Never took the BS “muscle relaxer”, as it’s a CNS depressant and so is an opioid and as the latter did the job at suppressing spasms, call it a day.

    Eagerly awaiting the final day when the insurance company finally acknowledges a disc that’s been bulging for 30+ years may very well have failed while I was catching my wife from falling, post operatively, after gallbladder removal and failing c-section scar unzipping.
    At the time of catching her fall, it felt like 440 volts down one cheek, leg and into the calf to the heel. The other side felt like, perhaps 90 volts (I worked with electronics so much, yeah, I know what it feels like, plus multiple EMG’s over the decades) down the other cheek, to the 400 volts in the alternate calf.
    If that ain’t disc, I *really* want to know whatinhell causes such significant pain!

    I’ve been sticking with the hydrocodone, 5 mg,BID, rather than TID, as it’s PRN and BID works, has less nausea and vomiting and considering my GERD and trivial vomiting, that’s a really good thing.
    I gave my wife the “muscle relaxer”, as she takes the very same drug, at the dosage prescribed, no, half of that. SHe uses it to get sleep. Considering the dose and number, it shaved time down on a refill for her.

    Hey, I make good money, however, the sheer volume of specialists, at $35 a pop does seriously add up when you go above a dozen specialists, all clamoring for her attention!
    I’m also known to enjoy glucose or fructose in favor of sucrose in similar concentrations.
    And before my hyperthyroidism was finally recognized and diagnosed (it fulminating for, potentially, 30+ years, as theorized between my endocrinologist and myself, during a private thought session), yeah, sweet nauseates me at certain levels. This, from a former “junk food junkie”.
    Now, quite successfully treated, give me glucose, give me fructose, screw the double whammy version. The former tastes better to me.

    Seriously! It does!

  2. Doctors just need waivers to sign that stipulate that if there are any complications from undiagnosed gestational diabetes, they are not liable.

    1. Ha! Glucola is just a single brand name that has become synonymous with glucose solution. (Like kleenex for facial tissue) No one’s getting rich from this test. Unless you count the glucose testing supply industry. ; )

  3. Good article but why do you keep calling it “The Glucola” as if that were the official name? It’s like saying “The Walmart.” I can understand for the title but it looks odd throughout the article.

  4. Please proofread before posting anything else.
    I’m sure your contentions have some validity; however with so many grammatical errors they will not be taken seriously.

  5. Its multiple amounts of these preservatives, food coloring and chemicals that we ingest on a daily basis with several different food items, thats the problem. Sure this is one drink, but when your eating and drinking other items daily how much of these substances are we truly getting a day?? Only in America. To say non of these products cause sickness and disease after years of ingestion is a fool!

  6. I have no problem taking a test for gestational diabetes – but hey some of us are allergic to the brominated vegetable oil. I can’t take the test you are recommending without causing extreme muscle spasms, extreme vomiting and a very large risk of pregnancy loss due to my reaction to the oil. Not to mention the unpleasant side effects of also being allergic to the corn in the drink. I will most likely end up just testing my blood sugar regularly unless they can come up with an alternative to the drink. I can’t even have the drink they mix the dye that they give you for MRIs to check for appendicitis/kidney stones I had to drink the dye straight.

  7. The lemon lime flavor of the glucola has no brominated vegetable oil or artificial color. Hyperemesis is typically a disease of the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The glucola is administered at 26-28 weeks. The dosage of glucola is 1/2 cup. The people who had symptoms from brominated vegetable oil were injesting more than 2 liters a day of certain sodas (Mountain Dew, Squirt) a day.

    The benefit of this testing is to identify who has gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetics have a higher risk of maternal, fetal and neonatal death. The treatment is a low carbohydrate diet, checking your blood sugar 4 times a day, weekly visits, monthly ultrasound, fetal heartbeat monitoring weekly after 32 weeks, delivery by the due date. Doing this treatment for everyone is a lot of unnecessary intervention. It makes more sense to identify who will benefit from this. Unfortunately there is no set of risks that adequately identify all gestational diabetics. Therefore everyone gets tested. The risks of untreated diabetes so overwhelm the risk of a sweet drink.

  8. thank you for this. Bang on.
    One thing though.
    There’s one medical reason for avoiding the Glucola: already diagnosed cases of hyperemesis gravidarum. Many of we HGers vomit the Glucola up immediately, and it can cause a vomiting cycle so severe that it can throw off weeks of medication and careful hydration and land you in the ER for IV fluids or even admittance. (Speaking from much experience here as a volunteer with the HER Foundation, having helped hundreds upon hundreds of HGers over the past 8 years. )
    Even saying that, most HGers give it the good old college try, myself included, and only try the jelly bean test on another day if we puke up the Glucola.

  9. GLUCOLA has BVO. BVO use in food products has been banned in Europe, Australia, and Japan. Why are we still using it here in the US?

  10. @ TJ
    Those who make claims without evidence, are required to provide valid citations.

    Although the chemical formula for dextrose and glucose is the same, they are isomers of each other. The two isomers of glucose, referenced here, as sugar chemistry does get complicated, are named L-glucose and D-glucose. Dextrose is D-glucose. However, in mammals, the metabolism is quite different, which means a glucose tolerance test is not the same if one is using dextrose. Agreed the food industry uses the two interchangeably, which depending on the presentation perspective is both right and wrong. However, since you have already agreed to Glucola being safe, just what is your freedom of choice all about? If you already make “healthy choices in every other aspect” how can you add to that “even more often now that I am pregnant”? In view of the above, why are you so certain your other choices are completely valid “healthy choices”? It is not a claim that I can make.

  11. It’s not a matter of taste. And I understand it’s been tested and proven safe. But I would like the option of consuming just dextrose… Which is the only necessary ingredient… With some water. I make healthy choices in every other aspect of my life, and even more often now that I’m pregnant. I’d like a healthier choice.

  12. Doctors use non evidence based information in their practices all the time. Only a small percentage of OB practice bulletins are evidence-based.

  13. I really wish that they makers of things like Glucola would produce an unflavoured version. To me, the flavours are invariably disgusting, far nastier than whatever it is they are trying to disguise.

  14. Ok, although, I agree that one drink may not harm you and your baby. I disagree with you in discrediting Foodbabe’s claims. You don’t have to be a medical expert to know that most of the chemicals in our food and drugs (DUH!) are toxic. AND most medical experts aren’t trained in this subject either…they receive little to no nutritional training and are only taught along the pharmaceutical discipline (a pill for every ill). There are always healthier and safer alternatives and tests. Why should we believe you when you say that Glucola isn’t toxic? Because some studies (probably funded by big-pharma) claim so? NO THANKS!

    1. There is no big Glucola.

      Most studies in GDM are funded by the NIH branch National Institute Maternal and Child Health

      It helps when you know the science. Jelly beans, food etc are not a pure glucose load. To do the test you need glucose, not sucrose or fructose. Also, fiber affects absorption. So advocating other options that contain different sugars shows a complete lack of understanding of the simple science involved. Most OB/GYNs and are trained in this, I can’t speak for midwifery training. The simple fact is getting a pure 50 g standardized glucose load widely available without a commercial prep is hard.

      1. Just a suggestion, Science Babe has a facebook page I think all of you would find interesting. She’s a chemist and tells things like they are with NO punches pulled and she also thinks Food Blab is a dangerous idiot…as do I.

    2. Any time a poster mentions “big pharma” or equivalent, they automatically discredit their entire post. You are also a very much deluded lemming for Food Blab. How can you possibly not see through her self-serving, mis-leading, dangerous drivel? Think for yourself and in less than an hour, you’ll be WAY smarter than she will ever be.

  15. I do not consume unnatural products, and that includes glucola. No food coloring or soda for me. It’s great for people who normally do consume duch things, but what about people who already follow a diet good enough for a diabetic? I have rights. Sugar water should not have to be orange. Glucola simply makes no sense.

  16. I am curious about clinical trials on the basis of which many drugs are said to be safe. What should be our criteria on being confident that clinical trials are not transparent, deceptive or outright fraudulent?

    1. I am sorry but I phrased my question wrongly. I meant to ask how we can be confident that clinical trials are transparent, not deceptive and not outright fraudulent.

      1. Either trust an expert or become a qualified person to digest studies yourself. Clinical trials are transparent in that their methods are published. If you had the knowledge you could read them yourself and make a decision. if you do not have that knowledge then you should defer to someone that does, ideally. Not surprisingly, Food Babe is not qualified….

      2. Thanks.

        Just as a start, I tried searching for completed clincial trial studies on glucola use for pregnant women at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov but did not find any result except for one un-finished one where the glucola dose is administered for 7 days instead of one day.

        Won’t it be appropriate for hospitals and doctors to list out the exact legal Clinical Research Study numbers of all the drugs (treatment or diagnostic) to all relevant patients, and shouldn’t this be made mandatory?

  17. I remember the Glucola, it was absolutely horrible. I also had hyperemesis at the time, and since you pretty much have to chug the can, as soon as I was finished, I vomited everywhere. My doctor did let me do jelly beans instead, but I had to eat a lot, and my results ended up being borderline. We both thought it best to continue as if I *did* have GDM, and my son is perfectly healthy, and everything ended up okay. While there are times that some sort of exception may need to be made, I would’ve preferred to take the Glucola. Although, because of that, I absolutely detest Orange Crush now.

  18. Did a little drive by at Food Babe and left the following behind, where I am sure the readers here can read into all the fun. Doubt the post will stay there long, so this is also a “posterity site” Also thanks and hat tip to Jay for me to go look for the “chemicals” in the Babe’s jelly bean recommendation.

    “Think the host of this site, Food Babe, should check some basic facts. From a brief perusal, I have the following shocking concerns, which should be clarified.

    1/ In the example of the woman and the bananas, Anastasia B, where she states ” half a banana with 8 oz of apple juice which equals 50 grams of glucose” is simply not true since apples are primarily fructose, and the sugar content varies considerably for cultivar to cultivar, and region to region of the same cultivar. In general, fructose in 100 grams of apple is almost 6 grams of free fructose, which represents about 57 percent of the total sugar content. For sucrose a 100 grams contains a little more than 2 grams of it, which represents about 20 percent of the total sugar content. For glucose 100 grams contains almost 2.5 grams of free glucose, which represents nearly 25 percent of the total sugar content. How does one do a glucose tolerance test with any accuracy when for the test to be valid, one needs an exact amount of glucose to start with?

    2/ The ” Wellness Mama” states that ” there is no situation during pregnancy in which I would ever consume that much sugar/carbohydrates in one sitting, so the test is not accurate for me” That is not what the test is about and test strips are not a good way to pick up gestational diabetes. Even a HBA1c test would be better, but hardly diagnostic. So what is she referring to?

    3/ The link has been taken down for pregnantatkids.blogspot.ca

    The Food Babe should also check her jelly bean reference for the “other nasties” which they certainly contain.

    A/ There is on the ingredient list: pectin, citric acid, ascorbic acid. Pectin is mostly made from apples, so why not an organic source, alar free? Who knows where the other 2 acids came from.

    B/ There is also carnauba wax, which is the stuff used for car polish. Does that seem good to eat, or should it be restricted to polishing yoga mats?

    C / In addition there is something called confectioners glaze which is a hidden way to say, for candy, there is around 35% shellac. The same stuff used to protect, seal, finish wood and is made from a resin scraped from the branches of trees left from a small insect. Does this seem to digest well?

    D/ And lastly, to highlight, is organic annatto, where no amount has been deemed as safe for pregnant women. Does seem to have risk without knowledge does it not?

    Finally to get the amount of sugar required, for a test, one would have to eat the whole bag as illustrated, but it would be nice to know what kind of sugar it is. Probably mostly fructose from the fruit ingredients which is not so good for a glucose test to be of valid diagnostic value. Kind of screws up all the timing, to measure glucose tolerance, so has anybody got a solution to that?”

    Hopefully will be serving popcorn soon, GMO, heated in sunflower oil, without salt, but heavily laden with salt free butter, which definitely limits the trans fat if not the calories.

    DISCLOSURE As fructose is further processed in the liver before it enters the bloodstream, it therefore does not trigger insulin release as much as glucose does. However I have absolutely no idea how much this would affect the type of diabetes screen discussed here, other than it should by what I remember. There is a reason to start with glucose only. Can anybody comment?

  19. I saw a statistic that GD is fairly common, about 7% of pregnancies. Trying to find the citation for that…

  20. You may have wanted to mention that if doctors did happen to choose the other potential methods (candy bar, jelly bean) FoodBabe would eventually freak out about those also, because I’m pretty sure they have “chemicals” and “unnatural stuff” in them also. My wife was able to make some necessary and positive changes at the right time in her pregnancy thanks to taking the test twice. In case it isn’t obvious, neither she nor our beautiful daughter were poisoned, and both are in outstanding health.

  21. I am interested about the prevalence of GTTs in pregnancy. Is it a common test in the USA or confined to “at risk” women? Here in Oz, the numbers are increasing in the at risk category, because of the increasing numbers of overweight and obese women managing to fall pregnant. Also, women with gestational diabetes are considered at risk of poor pregnancy outcome and therefore are treated in specialist antenatal diabetic clinics. I was never at risk of developing GDM, never had a GTT and never did develop it in the end; I had very normal pregnancies (as a midwife I know that to be true) apart from having hyperemesis with my first (miserable). This Foodbabe person sounds ignorant and (dare I say it) lacking common sense; unfortunately, these people seem to carry a lot of credibility for the uninformed masses.

      1. Well, here I am chewing a big piece of humble pie! I have been out of obstetrics for some time (I work in paediatric research) . Anyway, apparently GTTs are now a common test in pregnancy here in Oz. I spoke with current obstetricians at our weekly meeting and the topic came up, the pick-up is around 18% affected here and the main reason put forward is increasing rates of obesity. A decade ago things were very different!
        Anyway, apologies to everyone for getting on my high horse about this.

      1. This is really interesting, I’d never heard of GTT in pregnancy, although I know 2 women who have had a diagnosis GDM, both with ‘risk factors’. I was never offered the test and now, 29 weeks in second time around I haven’t either. You aren’t routinely screened on the NHS unless you have symptoms/risk factors http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/gestational-diabetes/Pages/Diagnosis.aspx – I wonder what the rational is behind the differing policies here (and in Oz), and in the US.

    1. Dear Jenny,
      If you never had a test, then you don’t know if you had it or not. There are no symptoms, and not all babies born from GDM pregnancies are large. All women should have screeening during their pregnancy for GDM.
      As a nurse specializing in high-risk pregnancy and GDM I have seen the problems it can cause during the birth process. As well, there is data that strongly points to untreated GDM resulting in lifelong risk for obesity and Type 2 Diabetes for that baby. I urge everyone to suck it up, (literally) and take the test. The risk is minimal, if not non-existant and the peace of mind is well worth it.
      Michelle Q RN,CDE

      1. Hmm, I too am a Midwife and do not support the over-medicalisation of pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately there are always women who for whatever reason are considered high-risk and these tests are necessary for them and their babies; but expert midwives and doctors with good clinical skills can assess all women and treat them accordingly.

  22. as usual you’re so on point (and right!). sick to death o hearing people harp on about things containing “chemicals”… um duh, that’s what everything in the world is made of.

    currently 5 months pregnant and the next GTT will need to be taken soon… don’t get me wrong, it sucks and I wish there was another way to screen for GDM but the key is this: i it keeps baby and me safe it’s always worth it.

    Good stuff!

  23. Thanks for setting the record straight.
    I’m amazed at the number of people out there who think they know more than actual doctors, when they have no medical background or anything that would give them the knowledge or education they behave like they have.
    I have two special needs dogs. One with Addison’s disease and one with kidney disease. Both are on special prescription diets and I have a difficult time not telling these raw food advocates, who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, to stuff it!
    When did people stop listening to the advice of trained experts over the opinions of nobodies?

    1. When Google University started handing out millions of degrees with a few simple clicks of the mouse (unfortunately)

    2. Erin, Not only do they think they know more than trained professionals — they apparently can’t read, either. Jen always provides easily accessible articles, etc…..but the folks that are spewing out all this nonsense can’t find the articles and if they do see them, can’t read them.

      Reading is a skill.
      Melissa, RN.

  24. That popped up in my FB feed today. Scary to think how many women may put themselves (and their babies) at risk. (Sidenote: I kinda liked the drink. Something may be wrong with me.)

    1. I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE. Seriously, I was like “well, this is basically flat Sunkist. Needs vodka, though.” I timed myself drinking it–the lab tech told me I had 5 minutes, and I had it down in 50 seconds without a struggle.

      1. Lol! New womb evacuation drinking game: vodka infused glucose test shots every time the husband forgets to know how to change a diaper when it is soiled.

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