True or false: Your breath helps you determine if your diabetes is under control. While it sounds implausible, it’s definitely true—and an issue every person with diabetes should learn to recognize.
If your diabetes isn’t being managed effectively, there isn’t enough functioning insulin to help deliver glucose to your body’s cells that need it. Deprived of glucose—its main fuel source—your body will launch into a backup plan: burning fat for energy. The breakdown products of the process, called ketones, can accumulate in your blood and eventually in your urine. One type of ketone, called acetone, has a telltale “fruity” smell; if you’re making ketones, you’ll likely have fruity-smelling breath. (Since acetone is a key ingredient in nail polish remover, it might more accurately be called “nail polish remover breath.”)
A high level of ketones is a warning sign that your diabetes isn’t under good control. If not treated immediately with insulin, the ketone buildup can progress to a dangerous condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis, and even diabetic coma. Your diabetes care plan should include guidelines for monitoring your ketones—either by testing your blood for ketones or dipping a test strip in your urine.