School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI)

Diabetes: sugar handling and complications

Dipstick testing of ‘urine’ samples: A ‘quick’ diagnostic test. This will highlight variability within a normal group of people and introduce concept that symptoms having more than one cause; so further testing is required. These are single samples and will vary from no sugar to high sugar. The results of the tests will be plotted onto a pre-prepared chart. Normal ‘range’ highlighted.

Discuss results and link to further tests: Variability, controlling circumstances and the need to back up results with other tests before reporting: you wouldn’t want to tell someone they were diabetic and later tell them you got it wrong! This is really important in research as you are dealing with hypotheses rather than widely accepted facts, like in a research setting.

Introduce the Glucose Tolerance Test: After fasting for 12- 15h (This is an example of a control measure) subjects drink sugary water and see how their bodies handle it by measuring blood glucose (blood sugar) just before drinking and then every 30 minutes for 2 hours (5 samples). Link to lessons: relate sugar in test liquid with a vial of sugar and fizzy/sports drinks.

GTT Activity: Labelled vials of ‘blood/plasma’ which have been collected from our ‘subjects’ as explained above, tested using glucose meters (these are the sort real diabetic use). This will give us an idea of how blood glucose changes over time after ingesting sugar. These profiles will be plotted on a whole class graph: will highlight the variability and that there isn’t a gap between normal and diabetic: it’s a spectrum.

Learning objectives/session outcomes

• Raise awareness of the role of diet in diabetes (mellitus, Type 2) and the problems it causes in the body (Focus on kidney disease); linking to added and hidden sugar in foodstuffs.

• Highlight the importance of scientific research in this growing problem, particularly the nature of variability within patient samples.

Intended age group/Key Stage

Year 10

Subject/Curriculum links

Links into nutrition and diet which is being taught in the food technology lessons: particularly hidden sugar and sugary drinks.


Yes: activity can be tailored. When targeting younger age groups the activity would focus on the sugar in the urine and more images. With select groups of students it could be built upon to form a clinical investigation.


Any classroom would be suitable as none of the samples involved are harmful; they are all coloured sugary water. Time 45-55 minutes.


Heather Eyre, PhD student. Email for further information