I was recently reading about a small study of diabetic people who skipped breakfast and the effect this had on their blood sugar levels (just google ‘diabetics who miss breakfast’ for more information). It was found that their blood sugar levels were much higher after lunch and evening meals than diabetics who ate breakfast.
I found this really interesting but as a nutritional therapist I also always want to know the reasons why, and the people conducting the survey had no clear answers. Part of being a nutritional therapist is about the detective work you need to do to uncover the reasons behind any problem. When clients used to come to see me I asked them lots of questions and also gave them time to talk and tell me about their health (or lack of) and lifestyle. By having the time to do this and not jumping to conclusions too quickly I learnt a lot about how the body works and how it responds to changes in lifestyle, diet and supplements. It’s where I feel that doctors go wrong as they unfortunately just don’t have the time (and sometimes the inclination) to ask the person who knows most about their own body the questions that could lead to solving their health problems.
So what is really happening with the diabetics in this study? One would expect blood sugar (which is raised when food is taken) to stay low if no food is eaten. However, a lack of food puts the body under stress. The body needs the sugar it breaks down from food as fuel but if none appears it produces stress hormones and these in turn release sugars stored in the body for fuel. Because the body isn’t sure how great a stress is involved it doesn’t know whether to produce enough sugar for the next hour or enough for the individual to run a marathon. If the marathon took place the sugar would be used, if not, without eating anything, blood sugar can be raised in excess of what is needed and hence remain high throughout the day.
A friend of mine whose husband is pre-diabetic couldn’t understand why his blood sugar went too high after breakfast even though he was eating a sugar-free low-glycaemic meal. My instinct was to suggest he ate supper before bed. Low-glycaemic foods such as oatcakes with nut butter or hummus should be perfect. It did the trick and his blood sugar remained more stable after breakfast. His body wasn’t coping with the long gap between his evening meal and breakfast so was releasing stress hormones in order to raise his blood sugar, which still remained high in the morning. Some people just need to eat more regularly than others in order to support their bodies and prevent ill health.