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Blood Sugar Control: People Are Individuals

November 24th, 2015 by Deb Wilson

DiabetesInteresting study from researcher Dr. Eran Elinav, a senior scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel.  Have you noticed that eating certain foods make your blood sugar spike but have no effect on others eating the same foods?  Another component of personalized medicine came to light as a result of the study.

A new study from Israel suggests that people have very different blood sugar responses to the same food — with some showing large spikes even after eating supposedly healthy choices.  Researchers said the findings, published in the Nov. 19 issue of the journal Cell, underscore the message that there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet.  The investigators also suggested that carefully tailoring diets to meet individuals’ blood sugar tendencies could be the wave of the future.

The new study focused largely on people’s blood sugar levels two hours after eating a meal — also known as the post-prandial glucose response.  Research has linked habitually high after-meal glucose responses to increased risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health problems, said co-researcher Eran Segal, who is also a scientist at Weizmann.  That’s the premise behind so-called low-GI diets, which tell people to shun foods that tend to trigger a large increase in blood sugar. The list of bad guys includes white bread, potatoes, instant oatmeal and certain fruits.

But in the current study, a number of surprises emerged, Segal said.  “We saw vast variability (in blood sugar responses) when we gave people identical meals,” he said.  “With bread, some people showed almost no change in glucose, while others showed a large response,” he said. “Some had higher responses to bread with butter than to bread alone.”  That, Segal pointed out, goes against the conventional wisdom that adding fat to a simple carbohydrate reliably reins in the blood sugar response.

The findings are based on 800 Israeli adults who gave detailed information on their diet, lifestyle and medical history. Over one week, they used a smartphone app to record all of their daily activities, including the food they ate, while glucose monitors kept track of their post-meal blood sugar changes.  Each participant also gave a stool sample so the researchers could analyze their gut “microbiome” — the collection of bacteria that reside in the digestive system. Recent research has been suggesting that the makeup of that microbiome may play an important role in a person’s risk of obesity and health conditions such as diabetes.  For the most part, study participants ate their normal meals, but the researchers did give them identical breakfasts so they could compare people’s responses to the same meal following a fast.  Overall, there was “immense” variation in blood sugar responses to particular foods, depending on the person, according to Segal. In one woman’s case, for instance, the researchers suspect that tomatoes were a major culprit behind her blood sugar surges.  That’s based on the fact that tomatoes were part of every meal that caused her blood sugar to soar, Segal explained. …

Foods May Affect Each Person’s Blood Sugar Differently, Study Suggests

As you might suspect, not everyone agrees with  Dr. Elinav’s findings.  “A dietitian who reviewed the study expressed doubt about how useful this information might prove, however.  For one, designing your diet based on short-term blood sugar responses does not ensure that it’s “healthy,” said Lauri Wright, an assistant professor of community and family health at the University of South Florida, in Tampa.  “I’d be concerned about it meeting a person’s nutritional needs,” said Wright, who is also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.”  Still, it is interesting.

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