A new study has found that morning meal rich in protein and fat can actually curb hunger, and help control blood sugar levels, in patients with type 2 diabetes.
According to the researchers, patients who ate a big breakfast for three months experienced lower blood sugar (glucose) levels, and nearly one-third were able to reduce the amount of diabetic medication they took.
“The changes were very dramatic,” said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “I’m impressed with these findings,” added Zonszein, who was not involved with the study. “We should see if they can be reproduced.”
The researchers based their study on previous investigations that found that people who regularly eat breakfast tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who skip the meal. BMI is a measurement that takes into account height and weight. Breakfast eaters also enjoy lower blood sugar levels and are able to use insulin more efficiently.
The trial randomly assigned 59 people with type 2 diabetes to either a big or small breakfast group.
The big breakfast contained about one-third of the daily calories that the diabetic patients would have, while the small breakfast contained only 12.5 percent of their total daily energy intake. The big breakfast also contained a higher percentage of protein and fat.
Doctors found that after 13 weeks, blood sugar levels and blood pressure dropped dramatically in people who ate a big breakfast every day. Those who ate a big breakfast enjoyed blood sugar level reductions three times greater than those who ate a small breakfast and blood pressure reductions that were four times greater.
About one-third of the people eating a big breakfast ended up cutting back on the daily diabetic medication they needed to take. By comparison, about 17 per cent of the small breakfast group had to increase their medication prescriptions during the course of the trial.
The people eating a big breakfast also found themselves less hungry later in the day.
“As the study progressed, we found that hunger scores increased significantly in the small breakfast group, while satiety scores increased in the big breakfast group,” study co-author Dr. Hadas Rabinovitz, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said in a news release from the association. “In addition, the big breakfast group reported a reduced urge to eat and a less preoccupation with food, while the small breakfast group had increased preoccupation with food and a greater urge to eat over time.”
Rabinovitz speculated that a big breakfast rich in protein causes suppression of ghrelin, which is known as the “hunger hormone.”
The protein in the breakfast also likely helped control the patients’ blood sugar levels, said Vandana Sheth, a certified diabetes instructor and registered dietitian in Los Angeles and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“We know when you eat carbohydrates, they can elevate blood sugar within 15 minutes to an hour,” Sheth said. “Protein takes longer to convert into glucose, as long as three hours, and not all of it goes to glucose. Some of it is used to repair muscle, for example. So it’s not a direct effect – 100 per cent of the carbs you eat convert to glucose, while only a portion of protein you eat converts to glucose.”
An Associate Professor at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr. Femi Fasanmade, corroborated the findings, stating that it is not ideal for diabetics to skip any meal of the day because it will not help proper monitoring of the blood sugar level.
Fasanmade who spoke with Pharmanews in a telephone conversation also submitted that while a big breakfast will help diabetics a great deal, it must be rich in protein, vegetables and antioxidants to be truly effective.