Diabetic or pre-diabetic? Here’s why breakfast is so important

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Diabetes | Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 06:00 AM

high-protein breakfast could help women regulate their glucose levelsI’m never ravenous in the morning, and the same goes for many of you, I’m sure. But I always have something solid. Fresh fruit, whole grain toast with almond butter or oatmeal with some nuts and berries. Through the night, your body has been running on empty and you need to refuel!

Now there’s new research showing that a diet that includes a high-protein breakfast could help women regulate their glucose levels. Good news for those who are diabetic or “borderline” pre-diabetic, where you can make all kinds of gains toward managing your blood sugar through diet choices and exercise. There is something to be said for the popular high-protein Paleo diet, although I caution my patients to stay away from trendy extremes and make small, positive changes to their life-long eating habits. Breakfast with protein, in this case, makes good sense.

We all see our blood glucose levels go up after we eat. When those increases are extreme, insulin resistance and eventually diabetes can be the result. That’s why a diet that helps to control glucose levels by preventing those large spikes in blood sugar is good for people with a risk of diabetes.

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Control your glucose levels with food choices

A researcher at the University of Michigan has found women who eat high-protein breakfasts maintain better insulin and blood glucose levels than those who eat a low-protein or no-protein breakfast, giving a clue to a type of diet that could be healthy in the long-term.

The study was completed by Heather Leidy, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, and Kevin Maki of Biofortis Clinical Research; the study included healthy women aged 18 to 55 who did not have diabetes. On four consecutive days, the women in the study ate either one of three different meals or just water.

The three different meals clocked about 300 calories and had similar amounts of fat and fiber, but varied in their protein content. One meal was a pancake breakfast with just three grams of protein, another was a sausage-and-egg skillet with 30 grams of protein and the third was a similar skillet but with 39 grams of protein. That’s compared to the 10 to 15 grams of protein that most American women get during breakfast, according to Maki.

Insulin and glucose levels for each of the women were tested before and for four hours after their breakfasts (or in some cases, their water). Both breakfasts with more protein resulted in lower post-meal spikes in insulin and glucose levels as compared to the pancake breakfast, Maki said. Additionally, the breakfast with 39 grams of protein caused fewer spikes when compared to the one with 30 grams.

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One more reason to eat breakfast

The study findings indicate that by incorporating more protein into their first meal of the day, women can have better control of glucose levels and insulin throughout the day. This could lead to less hunger and cravings, which could make it easier to stick to an overall diet plan as well as protecting against insulin resistance and diabetes. A double win!

“For women, eating more protein in the morning can beneficially affect their glucose and insulin levels,” Leidy said. “If you eat healthy now and consume foods that help you control your glucose levels, you may be protecting yourself from developing diabetes in the future.”

And if you are already having issues with insulin resistance, incorporating a high-protein breakfast into your diet is still a good idea. The researchers say the findings suggest that pre-diabetics could also benefit from the stabilizing effect of a breakfast with a high-protein content, but caution that more study is needed for confirmation.

In the meantime, get quality protein into your morning meal (and skip the sugary cereals and Pop-Tarts). Hard-boiled eggs are quick and easy to take with you (just prep ahead) and toast with peanut butter and banana slices is tasty and filling. Make the effort and reap the benefits.

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