Frequency key to diabetes management

By | Health & Wellness
Healthy foods, which when consumed twice a day at lunch and breakfast, rather than in six mini meals, have shown to improve several health indicators including weight and blood sugar levels, reports a new study." Credit image@ National Cancer Institute (part of the NIH) wikimedia commons

Type into google “diabetes management” and you will open pages upon pages of advice from health scientists, forums, support groups and online shops offering their tips and advice on how to live with the condition.

Naturally, indecisiveness may reign amongst all this online literature, hidden behind adverts for various drugs and lifestyle tips.

However, new research has looked into the ways individuals can help themselves in the comfort of their own homes, and looks to revolve around the dinner table.

One of the tips doctors provide their diabetes patients is to partake in a calorie controlled diet. However, there are some discrepancies between how one should ingest these calories to best suit those with diabetes.

A paper published in the scientific journal Diabetologiaby Czech-Italian team looked to compare the effects of a multi-meal diet against a more traditional, some would argue, two-meal diet.

The intake of calories has a profound effect on our lifestyle and excessive consumption of foods can result in chronic conditions like diabetes. There are two types of the condition (with some scientists arguing a third type should also be included), with type-1 occurring via genetic inheritance, whilst type-2 is environmentally induced.

Diabetes itself occurs when the body becomes insensitive to (type-2) or is incapable producing (type-1) the hormone insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

In healthy individuals, muscular tissue, liver and adipose tissue would respond to an insulin spike and take up the blood sugar levels to be stored and used at a later date.

The researchers looked into the frequency of meals in order to assess their impact on certain health indicators, including hepatic (liver) fat content, metabolic clearance rate of glucose, oral glucose insulin sensitivity, and resting energy expenditure.

It has been theorised that eating six small meals a day, compared to two or three larger ones, results in a lower insulin spike and increased sense of satiety, both of which would be perfect for the management of diabetes and obesity, for example.

The researchers screened two hundred and nineteen individuals, and selected fifty four who met the criteria, which included being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and HbA1c (a measure of average blood sugar levels over a weekly/monthly period) situated between 6 and 11.8 percent. The patients were aged between thirty and seventy.

The test subjects were randomly split evenly into two groups and were assigned specific calorie controlled dietary regimens, being tasked to eat five hundred calories less than the guideline daily amount. The first were asked to eat a specific amount of calories over six meals in a day, whereas the second ate the same number of calories only over two meals: breakfast and lunch.

After a month’s adjustment period, whereby the patients learnt to keep an accurate food diary, the regimen began and lasted a total of twelve weeks. Liver fat content, insulin sensitivity and pancreatic beta cell function, which secrete the hormone insulin, were analysed.

Both diets showed benefits for the participants, however those on the two meal a day diet saw greater influences than the multi-meal test subjects, with body weight and liver fat content decreasing more (-3.7kg and -0.04% respectively) compared to the other group (-2.3kg and -0.03%).

Interestingly, the researchers also saw an ever so slight increase in physical activity following the two calorie restricted regimens.

“Eating only breakfast and lunch reduced body weight, liver fat content, fasting plasma glucose, C-peptide and glucagon, and increased OGIS, more than the same caloric restriction split into six meals. These results suggest that, for type 2 diabetic patients on a calorie-restricted diet, eating larger breakfasts and lunches may be more beneficial than six smaller meals during the day”, said the authors in the paper.

They also mentioned the importance of further, larger scaled studies to help elucidate the findings; however they believed that the new therapeutic methods showed look to include the timing and frequency of meals for diabetes patients in order to maximise their management potential.

Will you implement the two-meal per day calorie intake plan into your lifestyle?

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