Eating carbs last slows rise in blood sugar for diabetics

October 2, 2017 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

Eating carbs last slows rise in blood sugar for diabetics

Saving the bread or potato for last at mealtime could help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar under control, new research suggests. 

People with type 2 diabetes who ate protein and vegetables before they consumed bread and orange juice had a significantly lower increase in blood sugar after the meal, compared to when they ate carbs first.

The decrease was comparable to the effect found with some drugs used to treat diabetes. Eating carbohydrates last may be a simple strategy for regulating after-meal glucose levels.

Keeping blood sugar in control is crucial for people with type 2 diabetes, in part because reduces the risk of severe complications including heart disease, vision loss and nerve damage.

About the study

To follow up on small studies that revealed eating protein before carbohydrates led to a smaller rise in blood sugar than vice versa, the researchers had 16 men and women with type 2 diabetes consume the exact same meal on three separate occasions, one week apart, eating the items in a different order each time. 

Study participants ate bread and orange juice first, took a 10-minute rest, and finished up with chicken and salad; ate the meal in the reverse order; and consumed the chicken, veggies and bread as a sandwich, accompanied by orange juice. At each meal, participants consumed the same amount of calories and carbohydrate. 

Lower blood sugar and insulin response after eating carbs last

When people ate the carbs last, their post-meal blood glucose levels were about half as high as when they ate carbs first, and about 40 percent lower than when they ate all meal components together. The carbohydrate-last meal was also associated with lower insulin secretion and higher levels of a gut hormone that helps regulate glucose and satiety. Insulin levels required to keep study participants’ glucose under control were about 25 percent lower when they followed the carbs-last plan. 

The lower insulin requirements and increase in gut satiety hormone levels suggests that closing a meal with carbs may also be helpful for weight management, although more research is needed. 

Source:  BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, September 1, 2017.

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