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How Long Can a Diabetic Go Without Food?

author image Amber Keefer
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

Regular Meals

A diabetic cannot go without food for long. If a diabetic doesn't eat regularly, her blood glucose level can plummet. Diabetics should eat snacks and meals on a schedule because a delay of as little as half an hour can lower blood sugar, which can have catastrophic results. Diabetics are especially prone to a condition known as hypoglycemia, a reaction caused by too much insulin in the bloodstream. Once a diabetic takes insulin, it is important to eat something within 30 minutes before blood sugar begins dropping. The dose of insulin you take must also match the amount of carbohydrates you consume in order to keep blood sugar levels under control.


When a diabetic does not eat enough food, but still administers insulin, blood glucose levels can drop dangerously low, inducing hypoglycemia. Early signs of hypoglycemia include dizziness, weakness, headache, hunger or shakiness. If blood glucose drops too low, a person can become confused or even lose consciousness. In some cases, insulin shock can lead to coma. Although all diabetics suffer hypoglycemia at times, according to the American Diabetes Association, you should talk to your doctor about what your blood glucose levels should be. If your blood sugar falls below what your doctor recommends, you are likely hypoglycemic. When hypoglycemia occurs, you need to get some sugar into your body quickly. Fruit juice, milk, a few pieces of hard candy, or a tablespoon of sugar or honey can help raise glucose levels in the blood temporarily.

Controlling Diet

Diabetics often need to adjust the doses of insulin they take depending on how many grams of carbohydrates they eat for a meal or snack. While this balance can be different for one person than for another, counting the carbohydrates you consume allows you to maintain a healthful blood glucose level. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, how well a diabetic can manage her disease depends not only on what she eats, but also on when she eats it. Eating more often can help keep blood glucose levels steady. Planning three regular meals with snacks in between can prevent blood sugar from fluctuating. You should not go more than four hours without eating a meal or snack. This keeps your body fueled throughout the day.

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