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Is It What One Eats or Food Order That Impacts Blood Sugar?


Blood SugarEverybody’s blood sugar rises after eating. What is normal for most, however, can be a serious issue for those with diabetes, whether borderline or a full-blown condition, whose blood pressure could spike precipitously. Experts believe that it is the order in which one eats different types of food that will impact blood sugar levels more than what one specifically eats. A new, albeit small, study seems to indicate that food order does affect blood sugar, particularly when carbohydrates are eaten.

Earlier research had showed that drinking protein shakes before eating a meal can result in lower blood sugar levels after dining than not having one. This suggests that the order in which foods are eating could be influential on glucose and insulin levels.

So the new study, conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers, sought to look at food order in controlling blood sugar levels. The team looked at whether dining on proteins and vegetables before eating carbohydrates makes a difference in post-meal levels of insulin and glucose for those who are obese and have developed type 2 diabetes. They found having chicken and vegetables and then bread and juice resulted in lower levels than when consumed in the opposite order, according to their press release and write up in Diabetes Care.

The researchers recruited 11 participants who overweight or obese and had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. All 11 were taking metformin, a drug that helps to control blood sugar.

The study was conducted over two meals, before which the people fasted for 12 hours. Both meals were identical in content and had 628 calories. The sole difference was the food order.

At one meal, they ate the carbs (ciabatta and juice) first. Then, 15 minutes later, the group dined on skinless grilled chicken, followed by a side salad and steamed broccoli with butter. At the next meal, the food order was reversed with the salad and broccoli first, then the chicken, and finally the carbs. The researchers also took the participants’ blood samples prior to eating and 30, 60 and 120 minutes after the meal started.

They found that the blood sugar levels were about 29 percent lower 30 minutes after they began eating when the vegetables and proteins came first. At the 60- and 120-minute intervals, blood sugar levels were 37 percent and 17 percent lower, respectively, than when the carbs came first. Their insulin levels were also significantly lower when the chicken and vegetables were consumed first. While the study is small and should be repeated with a larger participant base, it does seem to verify that the order in which people eat foods matters, and focusing on that could help control post-meal glucose levels in diabetic patients.

“We’re always looking for ways to help people with diabetes lower their blood sugar,” noted Dr. Louis Aronne, the Sanford I. Weill Professor of Metabolic Research and a professor of clinical medicine at the school, who served as the principal investigator on the study. “We rely on medicine, but diet is an important part of this process, too. “

Noting that it is difficult to get people to change their diets, and particularly telling them to cut back on carbs is not usually effective, Aronne added, “This study points to an easier way that patients might lower their blood sugar and insulin levels.” The study shows that food order can impact blood sugar as much or more than what one eats, so it should be tried as a simple means of controlling diabetes.

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

Weill Cornell Medical College: Food Order Has Significant Impact on Glucose and Insulin Levels
Fox News: Eating vegetables and proteins before carbs may impact blood sugar
Amerian Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care: Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels
Medical Daily: Eating vegetables and proteins before carbs may impact blood sugar