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Whole Grains, Bran Fiber and Diabetes
Researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Tongji Medical College in Hubei, China noted that whole grains tended to help reduce the risk of diabetes and wondered what effect eating more whole grains might have on those who already have diabetes.

A Little More Fiber Can Help You Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes
More and more children and adolescents are considered overweight or even obese, leading to a related rise in the cases of insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes among children. This is usually attributed to the amount of sugar in their diets combined with the poor quality carbohydrates they eat.

Start Your Kids Out Right
People who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories throughout the day and tend to have higher Waist to Hip ratios and higher Body Mass Indices than those who eat breakfast.


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More on Breakfast and Blood Sugars

Fried Egg BreakfastI've reported extensively on the role that a high-fiber diet plays on the prevention and management of diabetes in both adults (for example: Whole Grains, Bran Fiber and Diabetes, Bite 5/26/10) and children (A Little More Fiber Can Help You Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes, Bite 11/25/09). We also know how important breakfast is to weight management for both adults and children (for example: Start Your Kids Out Right, 11/24/10).

An interesting pilot study out of the University of Minnesota looked at the intersection between breakfast, whole grains (in terms of the Glycemic Index) and blood sugar control (an important element in preventing or managing diabetes) (J Nutr 2011;141(1):163-168).

They recruited 9 overweight men and women between the ages of 20 and 40 who were given breakfast on five different occasions over the course of the study. On each occasion the participant had one of five breakfasts, all containing the same number of calories, with varying Glycemic Index and carbohydrate levels:

  1. High Carbohydrate and High Glycemic Index;
  2. High Carbohydrate and Low Glycemic Index;
  3. Low Carbohydrate and High Glycemic Index;
  4. Low Carbohydrate and Low Glycemic Index;
  5. No breakfast (water)

The volunteers answered questions regarding their appetite level (i.e., "How hungry do you feel now?"), how much they liked the meal, and how energetic they felt both before eating and thirty minutes after the meal, repeating the questions every thirty minutes for up to five hours after the meal. Their post-meal blood glucose and insulin levels were also tested every thirty minutes.

The researchers then compared the type of breakfast meal the participant ate with their blood glucose and insulin levels and their subjective feelings of hunger and energy. After 120 minutes the participants' glucose levels were much higher when they ate a High Glycemic Index meal, regardless of how many carbohydrates they ate. On the other hand, when they ate the same number of carbohydrates, their insulin levels were about the same regardless of whether they had a High or Low Glycemic Index breakfast.

What's really interesting, however, is that after 5 hours, those who ate a High Carbohydrate and High Glycemic Index meal had a similar drop in blood sugars as those who did not eat breakfast at all! This drop in blood sugar after a meal, called "reactive hypoglycemia," is thought to be a risk factor for developing diabetes.

What this means for you

This is another very small study that will need to be repeated with many more people to be considered important, but these results are intriguing and certainly fit with my observations in patients. The take-home message here is that a breakfast including whole grains, such as oatmeal or a whole grain cold cereal, instead of refined grains such as those in white bread or pastries, will help keep your blood sugars stable, sustaining you through the morning and preventing that drop in blood sugars that can lead to indiscriminate snacking or overeating at lunch. Breakfast right!

First posted: January 26, 2011