Cutting carbs at breakfast might help people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) control their blood sugar throughout the entire day, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
According to study co-author Jonathan Little, PhD, breakfast is a “problem meal” because the biggest blood sugar rises experienced by people with type 2 diabetes occur after breakfast: “The large blood sugar spike that follows breakfast is due to the combination of pronounced insulin resistance in the morning in people with T2D and because typical Western breakfast foods — cereal, oatmeal, toast and fruit — are high in carbohydrates.”
For their study, the researchers, who were from the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, recruited 23 participants with type 2 diabetes (average age, 59) for a two-day experiment. On the first day, the subjects were given a breakfast very low in carbohydrates — 10% of energy came from carbs, 85% from fat and 15% from protein. On the second day, their breakfast was much higher in carbs, which contributed 55% of the energy (30% came from fat, and 15% from protein). On both days lunch and dinner were the same. The blood sugar levels of the participants were measured continuously by a glucose monitor, and they were asked to report feelings of hunger and cravings for sweet or savory foods.
The researchers discovered that eating a low-carb, high-protein breakfast didn’t just lower the usual after-breakfast blood sugar spike, it eliminated it. The effect also lasted the entire 24-hour day. As Dr. Little described it, “We expected that limiting carbohydrates to less than 10% at breakfast would help prevent the spike after this meal, but we were a bit surprised that this had enough of an effect and that the overall glucose control and stability were improved.” The second positive finding was that the low-carb breakfast reduced cravings for sweets for the rest of the day, while also curbing pre-meal hunger.
Want to learn more about low-carb diets and diabetes? Read “Low-Carb Myths and Facts,” “Carbohydrate Restriction: An Option for Diabetes Management” and “Low-Carb Diabetes: What You Need to Know,” then try one of our top seven low-carb recipes.
About Joseph Gustaitis
A freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area, Gustaitis has a degree in journalism from Columbia University.