Counting carbs for blood sugar? Count proteins and fats too | Health and Wellness News


Many people with diabetes think that only carbohydrates can elevate blood sugar levels. But it is just as important to know that excess proteins and fats too can impact your blood sugar levels and impact how the sugar-regulating hormone, insulin, works.

In other words, all the three macronutrients —carbohydrates, proteins and fats — need to be moderated in your diet so that insulin functions normally. A couple of days ago, new large-scale research from the University of British Columbia showed how different people produce insulin in response to each of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates (glucose), proteins (amino acids) and fats (fatty acids).

The researchers conducted tests on pancreatic islets from 140 deceased male and female donors. Although most donors’ islet cells had the strongest insulin response to carbohydrates, approximately nine per cent strongly responded to proteins, while another eight per cent reacted to fats.

Carbohydrates: These are the key energy sources for the body in the form of glucose. Most carbohydrates need one to two hours to be digested. Some of these are digested quickly so that the brain can use the glucose to function smoothly. Carbohydrates with more fibre are digested slower than those without fibre. These release sugar gradually as they take time to be broken down, keep hunger pangs away and avoid sudden sugar spikes. These high-fibre carbs, like whole-grains, oats, barley, bulgur and buckwheat, are good for people with diabetes.

Proteins: The right amount of proteins in your diet regulates the absorption of the carbohydrate itself and even delays digestion and glucose release into the bloodstream. That’s why protein is ideally combined with carbohydrates in a meal.

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But when you stop eating carbs altogether and load up on proteins, then the latter is broken down into glucose by the body and used for energy (a process known as gluconeogenesis). Since protein is broken down to amino acids, excess consumption may elevate their levels in the blood and induce insulin secretion. In fact, studies have linked high consumption of certain types of amino acids, mostly found in milk and red meats, to a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. Stick to protein at 1 gm per kg of body weight. Also, it’s better to have lean fish and meats.

Fats: The body needs some dietary fat as it is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. These help the body absorb vitamins A, D and E. There is no problem when you consume it in modest amounts. But when you have had too much of the wrong kind of fat, be it trans fats or saturated fats, it can lead to fat accumulation, particularly abdominal obesity, and weight gain, which in turn lead to insulin resistance.

Besides, a fatty diet elevates cholesterol levels, which in turn can put you at increased risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. High triglycerides and low high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol levels are not only a consequence of high blood sugars but also a cause. Go for good fats in avocado, olive oil, sunflower seeds, walnut, sesame and tofu.

People with diabetes have to be very careful about a balanced diet featuring three of the macro nutrients in the right proportion. Do not resort to fad diets that may complicate your diabetes.

(Dr V Mohan is chairman, Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai)


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