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  • Anne Mullens

Study: Breakfast choices can impact blood sugar control all day

Eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates at breakfast compared to the same calories as low-fat, high-carb foods leads to better blood glucose control for the rest of the day.

That was the finding of a joint Canada-Australia randomized study among people with type 2 diabetes.

The study results could help those with type 2 diabetes achieve more stable daily blood sugar for their condition by making simple breakfast swaps. Think fried eggs or a cheese omelet instead of porridge, juice, and toast.

The study was led by Dr. Barbara Oliveira of the University of British Columbia Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development. Dr. Oliveira works with Dr. Jonathan Little in his Exercise, Metabolism, and Inflammation Lab. Dr. Little is the Chief Science Officer for the IPTN.

The study also included researchers from the University of Wollongong, Australia. It was published in the June edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Although both meals had identical calories, the low-carb breakfast led to lower post-meal blood glucose levels and fewer blood glucose swings throughout the day.

Dr. Oliveira stressed the simplicity and power of making choices for a single meal.

“We’re not talking about a complete diet overhaul. One of many complications for people living with type 2 diabetes is rapid or large increases in blood glucose levels after a meal,” she said.

Treatment strategies that can help lower post-meal glucose swings and rapid changes in glucose are crucial to managing this condition," she adds. "We've determined that if the first meal of the day is low-carb and higher in protein and fat we can limit hyperglycemic swings."

The study has been getting worldwide coverage in major medical news outlets, such as WebMD, Medical News Today, and NewMedicalNet. It was also covered by the popular press such as the UK’s Express newspaper, the Kelowna Capital News, India Global News, and more than a dozen BC publications through the Castnet network.

“We’ve been delighted by the widespread interest in our findings,” said Dr. Oliveira. “I think many people with diabetes immediately see the application to their own lives. “

Dr. Oliveira provided the following summary of the study methods and results :

  • A total of 121 people living with type 2 diabetes were randomly separated into two groups, a low-carb higher protein breakfast, and low-fat, higher carb breakfast.

  • The low-carb group was guided to eat a breakfast containing about 8 grams of carbs, 25 grams of protein, and 37 grams of fat, such as a cheese omelet or bacon and eggs.

  • The higher-carb group was guided to eat a breakfast of about 56 grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fat, such as oatmeal, toast, and juice.

  • All breakfast options in both groups were about 450 calories.

  • All the participants wore a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and tracked their food, weight, and other health measures for 12 weeks.

  • Glucose monitoring metrics such as glycemic variability, mean and maximum glucose, standard deviation, time above range, and area under the curve were significantly lower in the low-carb group as compared to the low-fat group.

  • In the low-carb group, total self-reported daily energy intake was 242 kcal less than the low-fat group and the carbohydrate intake was 73 g less, but the long-term significance of this finding was not clear.

  • After 12 weeks of consuming the low-carb breakfast, the HbA1c of low-carb participants decreased by about 0.3%; however, the between-group HbA1c difference was only slightly significant.

  • No significant differences were observed in that time frame between low-carb and low-fat groups in terms of BMI, weight, or waist circumference. Additionally, no significant between-group differences were observed in physical activity or hunger and satiety during the study period.

Overall, the study findings suggest that consuming a low-carb breakfast could be a simple and more effective dietary strategy that helps reduce overall carbohydrate and caloric intake and improve multiple glucose monitoring variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes as compared to consuming a low-fat breakfast. The team is planning further research among people with type 2 diabetes to investigate the long-term effects of a low-carb breakfast on HbA1c, metabolic markers, glucose control, and weight loss in a broader and more diverse population.

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