Sources of health information related to diabetes — including this publication — often give prescriptive advice when it comes to diet: Eat this; don’t eat this. And sometimes, the science on a given food or ingredient is clear enough that these blanket statements make sense.
But in other cases, there are reasons to doubt that it makes sense to give everyone the same advice. One of these areas is how certain foods affect blood glucose levels, as shown in a recent study by Mayo Clinic researchers.
Tracking blood glucose and more
Published in February 2019 in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study involved 327 adult participants without diabetes from Minnesota and Florida. Each one wore a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for 6 days and logged his or her food intake and physical activity.
Four standardized breakfasts were provided to all participants, which allowed the researchers to compare how each reacted to exactly the same meal. For other meals, participants were told to eat as they would normally.
Two days before the main phase of the study, each participant provided a stool sample that the researchers analyzed for its bacterial content to create a profile of the person’s gut microbiome.
Looking for patterns
As noted in a Mayo Clinic press release, the researchers used CGM readings along with other data — including participants’ gut microbiome, age, diet and physical activity — to create a predictive model of how blood glucose levels would respond to a given food or meal in a specific person.
This model was found to predict glucose responses correctly 62 percent of the time, on average. In contrast, using only the carbohydrate content of foods to predict a person’s glucose response worked 40 percent of the time, and using foods’ calorie content worked only 32 percent of the time.
Based on these results, it’s clear that a number of factors affect how your blood glucose level reacts to a given food — and that over time, researchers may be able to find ways to more accurately predict this response on an individual basis.
“This study is the first critical step in defining and proving the value of a personalized diet,” says study coauthor Heidi Nelson, MD. She adds that follow-up studies will be needed to evaluate the possible health benefits of individualized glycemic response prediction, in areas like weight control and long-term blood glucose control for people with diabetes.
Want to learn more about managing blood sugar? Read “What Is a Normal Blood Sugar Level?” “Managing Your Blood Glucose Ups and Downs”, and “Making Your Blood Glucose Monitor Work for You,” then see our blood sugar chart.