More and more individuals are discovering that they have diabetes. In fact, over 180 million people worldwide have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. By 2030, that number is predicted to double.
Despite the knowledge that their weight has far-reaching consequences that could even be life threatening, many obese people are also being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Children are being diagnosed with diabetes at younger and younger ages, which is extremely alarming.
Eating healthful foods, drinking plenty of water and regular exercise are the recommendations most doctors prescribe for a healthy lifestyle, but eating the right foods is especially important to the person with diabetes. Doctors at Australia’s Sydney Medical School and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in New South Wales, Australia, along with others, conducted extensive research to determine just how food intake can impact the severity of an individual’s diabetes.
What Did The Research Team Do?
Scientists know that blood glucose levels are affected by nutritional factors, but the question remains about which diets are better for individuals with diabetes: ones that have a high glycaemic index (GI) or ones that have a low glycemic index (GI). Low glycemic index foods take longer to digest and are released into the bloodstream at a slower pace without causing spikes in blood sugar. High glycemic index foods trigger a fast rise in blood sugar, which leads to unwanted outcomes.
Twelve studies were conducted over a four-week period in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Thailand and the UK with 612 adult and children who had type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Two of the twelve studies were conducted with children only. Participants were directly supervised or were required to maintain a food journal, with the intent of tracking intake over time. The study focused on the glycemic control, adverse effects, insulin sensitivity and, perhaps most important, the quality of life of the participants.
The Study Results
At the conclusion of the study, results demonstrated that those people who received lower GI diets had a significant decrease in HbA1c (hemoglobin plus glucose) levels. This indicates improved glycemic control. A higher number of low glycemic index participants reported fewer episodes of hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar) per month than the high glycemic index participants.
Insulin sensitivity was significantly higher for the low GI participants. The part of the study that yielded the best results was that which measured participants’ quality of life. Twice as many participants that had the low GI diet reported that their diabetes never limited any of their family activities.
Which Diabetes Diet is the Best?
For those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, consuming the right foods is an ongoing struggle. The results of this study are clear: the low gycemic index diet provides better maintenance of blood sugar levels and an overall better quality of life. If you are a person who either has diabetes, or one who is in a high risk category, and you desire a life that is only mildly inhibited by your diabetes, the low gycemic index diet is your best bet.
D.E. Thomas and E.J. Elliot (2010) Meta-analysis: The use of low glycaemic index diets in diabetes control British Journal of Nutrition; 104, 797-802