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Keep carbs for last: Eating food in order can help diabetics

Eating vegetables and protein before carbohydrates lowered glucose and insulin levels in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

By Stephen Feller
Keep carbs for last: Eating food in order can help diabetics
A recent study found that insulin and glucose levels were significantly lower when protein and vegetables were eaten before carbohydrates. Photo courtesy of Weill Cornell Medical College

NEW YORK, June 24 (UPI) -- People with type 2 diabetes and obesity who eat protein and vegetables before carbohydrates show lower post-meal glucose and insulin levels as a result of consuming food groups in that order.

Researchers think that suggesting an eat-this-then-that rather than an eat-this-instead-of-that approach to diet control may be a more effective way for type 2 diabetes and obese patients to keep their disorders in check.

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"Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, but if you tell someone not to eat them -- or to drastically cut back -- it's hard for them to comply," Dr. Louis Aronne, a professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a press release. "This study points to an easier way that patients might lower their blood sugar and insulin levels."

The small study consisted of 11 people eating a meal of ciabatta bread, chicken breast, lettuce and tomato salad with low-fat dressing, steamed broccoli with butter and orange juice twice, on a separate days, a week apart.

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The first week, researchers had participants eat carbohydrates, ciabatta bread and orange juice first and then 15 minutes later eat everything else for protein, vegetables and fat. The second week, participants ate protein, vegetables and fat first, waited 15 minutes and then ate the carbohydrates. Glucose levels were taken for all the participants 30, 60 and 120 minutes after each meal.

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Glucose levels proved to be much lower at the 30-, 60- and 120-minute checks, by 29 percent, 37 percent and 17 percent, when vegetables and protein were eaten before the carbohydrates, researchers said.

"Based on this finding, instead of saying 'don't eat that' to their patients, clinicians might instead say, 'eat this before that,'" said Aronne. "While we need to do some follow-up work, based on this finding, patients with type 2 might be able to make a simple change to lower their blood sugar throughout the day, decrease how much insulin they need to take, and potentially have a long-lasting, positive impact on their health."

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The study is published in Diabetes Care.

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