We all know that what, and how much we eat matter to our health. But what if the order in which we choose to eat the food on our plates could also make a difference.
It might sound farfetched, but there are scientific studies showing that when the proteins (1-3), vegetables (4) and/or fats (5) are eaten before the carbohydrates, the blood sugar spike following the meal is much lower than if the carbs are consumed first. The studies are relatively small, and done in persons with type 2 diabetes, but they clearly indicate that there might be other ways of controlling blood sugar than just avoiding certain kinds of carbohydrates. In fact, the study argues that the effect of eating food in the right order could be comparable to certain pharmaceuticals prescribed to regulate blood sugar rise after eating. This could be good news for everyone concerned with blood sugar levels and a welcome tool for nutrition professionals that are struggling to help people move towards a healthier lifestyle. “Eat the chicken before the fries and not the other way around” is much more positive and easy-to-follow than advice about maintaining a strict diet with many exclusions.
The studies referred to above are small and performed in persons with manifest diabetes, but after contacts with some of my Swedish research colleagues, I know that there is currently unpublished data to support the results also in non-diabetic individuals. (I promise to let you know once the data have been published.) The “protein first”- theory also supports the working principle of Good Idea, where the amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) seem to prime the body to handle the carbohydrates from food in a more effective way. The clinical trials we did with Good Idea were very similar to some of the studies mentioned above in the sense that about one-third of the beverage was consumed before the meal. And the results are consistent. Compared to placebo (flavored sparkling water) Good Idea consumed before, and with the meal gave a 20-30% reduction in blood sugar rise after eating.
And I can´t help taking this a little further. Have you ever heard about the healthy Mediterranean diet? In short, this is a diet that researchers have been discussing since decades. Statistics show that people who follow this diet have healthier lives and live longer than other people. However, it is hard to know exactly why. The olive oil has been suggested, and so has the abundance of veggies, and even the wine. Some claim that it is the siesta and not the food that has a positive effect. But what if…it could have something to do with “proteins first.” The Greek habit of having some cheese or anchovy before the meal, the Spanish tapas, the Italian´s antipasto. It´s all proteins consumed before the carbs. I have no scientific proof whatsoever but admit that the thought is intriguing.
San Francisco, January 28, 2019
Studies referred to in the text: