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Igor, Prepare the Lab

Jan Chait

August 28, 2007

Have you ever heard the expression "my body, my science experiment?" With all of its variables and chances of things going haywire, diabetes gives those of us who have it never-ending opportunities to perform experiments on ourselves.

I’ve been doing one such experiment for the past week or so. The results were so overwhelming that I wonder why it took me so long to figure it out.

My blood glucose had been running high—from “kind of” high to “YIPES!” high for some time. For one thing, I’ve been traveling a lot lately and eating unfamiliar foods. Besides, some of the trips were vacation and vacations don’t count…do they? For another, it’s been stressful out there and I tend to stress eat.

So when I downloaded data from my continuous glucose monitor and found a stratospheric blood glucose average, I immediately went back to being obsessive-compulsive about my food choices and portion sizes. I cut way back on fat consumption. I dusted off my gram scale to weigh my portions. (The weight, in grams, of portion sizes are listed on the nutrition label.) I ate only foods I’m familiar with. I snacked on fresh fruit and reduced-fat cottage cheese instead of, well, chips and stuff.

My blood glucose went right down and I was a happy camper. Then came last Thursday.

It was hot where I live. Very hot. So hot an electrical transformer blew and our electricity was out for several hours. My husband offered to take me and the grandchildren out to dinner, but our house is well-insulated and there are a lot of trees in our yard, so the house remained cool. Because we couldn’t cook and I didn’t want to open the refrigerator and let the cool air out, Hubby stopped by the spaghetti take-out place and brought home a bucket of that plus a loaf of garlic bread for dinner.

I love pasta and I love garlic bread. My idea of the main food groups are potatoes, pasta, and bread. So I ate pasta with fatty sauce. And I ate uncounted amounts of bread slathered with garlic-infused butter.

My blood glucose didn’t totally come back down until Saturday. Between Thursday evening and Saturday midday, it was like pouring insulin down the drain instead of into my body. To my credit, however, I went right back to my obsessive-compulsive ways on Friday morning instead of saying something like: “Well, I’ve blown it. I’m high anyway, so I might as well eat cookies.”

Because I ate fatty food only once in between eating lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables instead of sliding into high-fat eating and then kind of tapering off, it emphasized what dietary fat can do to blood glucose control. And because I’m a layperson, I asked fellow blogger and dietitian Amy Campbell to ’splain why that is. Her response:

“Yes, fat does slow or delay carb absorption by slowing down digestion. Fatty foods take longer to digest, so any carb in the meal is digested and absorbed more slowly as well. That’s why people who take premeal insulin sometimes actually go low soon after eating a high-fat meal, but then spike up hours later (that’s when the carb in the meal is finally kicking in). In this situation, using an extended wave/dual wave bolus (if on a pump) or splitting the premeal insulin dose is often the solution.

“Also, a high-fat meal, in general, can make it harder for your insulin (whether you still make some of your own or take injections) to work efficiently. There’s some evidence that saturated fat leads to more insulin resistance than unsaturated fat. However, it’s not known what that ideal percentage of fat is for people with diabetes. Joslin’s nutrition guideline recommends a slightly higher fat intake (30% to 35% of calories) than the American Diabetes Association (30% of calories).

“We typically recommend that people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes check their blood glucose two to three hours after eating a high-fat meal so that they can learn how fat affects them. It’s always different for everyone.”

Also, while I was surfing around, looking for why dietary fat affects glucose control, I found one study that said exercise does not help significantly in bringing dietary-fat-induced high blood glucose down.

Hmmm…another experiment to try. If my neighborhood ever gets streets again (we now have sidewalks and curbs here and there), I’ll have to test that theory by bicycling with potato chips and without. Maybe throw in some chip dip to vary the experiment even further.

See? Diabetes can be fun! (Cough.)



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