A new study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care says that how, in addition to what, you eat may affect your blood sugar levels.
Specifically, obese patients with type-2 diabetes may find that it benefits their blood sugar levels to start their meals with vegetables, and finish with carbohydrates(1).
“In this pilot study, we sought to examine the effect of food order, using a typical Western meal incorporating vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates, on postprandial glucose and insulin excursions in overweight/obese adults with type 2 diabetes,” the study explains.
While the study was small – only 11 participants – the results were conclusive: when participants consumed carbohydrates and sugar first, followed by protein and then vegetables, their resulting blood sugar levels were higher than when they ate their food in the reverse order.
Carbs generally enter into the blood stream within 15 minutes to 2 hours after a meal. Proteins generally enter the blood stream between 2-4 hours after eating and fats between 4-6 hours after eating.
Always Start With Veggies and Protein
Researchers think that the results of this study may influence the way doctors advise their patients with type 2 diabetes with regards to how they eat their meals.
“We’re always looking for ways to help people with diabetes lower their blood sugar,” Dr. Louis Aronne, principal investigator on the study, told Cornell University recently(2).
“We rely on medicine, but diet is an important part of this process, too. Unfortunately, we’ve found that it’s difficult to get people to change their eating habits. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, but if you tell someone not to eat them – or to drastically cut back – it’s hard for them to comply.”
“This study points to an easier way that patients might lower their blood sugar and insulin levels… Based on this finding, instead of saying ‘don’t eat that’ to their patients, clinicians might instead say ‘eat this before that’.”
Follow-Up Research Needed
Aronne says that while follow-up work is needed, based on this study’s findings, a simple change might be all that’s needed to help patients with type 2 diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels throughout the day, decreasing the amount of insulin they need to take and ultimately having a “long-lasting, positive impact on their health.”
High blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes is associated with serious complications, including heart disease and death.
One researcher not affiliated with the study told Reuters that the study may not be large enough to give the full story.
“I think certainly it’s an interesting study that says eating a good salad before your meal may help with glucose absorption,” said Dr. Sethu Reddy, of the Adult Diabetes Section at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
However, Reddy stressed, it is important to see what the long-term impact of food order has on blood sugar levels, and what exactly happens to the carbohydrates(3).