Amy Emerson

Is food sequencing the new way to reduce blood sugar spikes?

5 mins read

A biochemist with a passion for self-experimentation, Jessie Inchauspé, better known as ‘Glucose Goddess’, is well-known on Instagram for experiments with her continuous glucose monitor to learn about the side effects of excess glucose (sugar) in the blood.

In her book, The Glucose Revolution, she reveals her ‘Glucose Goddess hacks’, which claim to optimise how we eat to help reduce blood glucose ‘spikes’ and “flatten the glucose curve”.

Sounds promising for people with type 2 diabetes, but we wanted to pull back the curtain and see if there’s credible evidence supporting the Glucose Goddess hacks.

To get to the bottom of it, we asked Nicole Moore, Defeat Diabetes dietitian, to help us determine whether following these tips might help you reduce blood glucose increases. 

What are the Glucose Goddess hacks?

Glucose Goddess has seven hacks (called the Glucose Goddess hacks), which she says can help to flatten your glucose curves (lessen the impact of sugar in your bloodstream).

We can certainly get on board with some of the advice (because adding a plate of veggies and fat to every meal sounds sensible to us), but we’re left scratching our heads about some other suggestions.

In one of the hacks, Glucose Goddess Jessie Inchauspé claims that eating starches after your protein and veggies can help to reduce blood glucose spikes. This is known as “food sequencing” or “meal sequencing”, but does it work? Not sure. Are we convinced? Not just yet.

First, what is a blood glucose spike?

Many people struggle with blood glucose spikes (also known as blood sugar spikes, or if you want to get scientific, ‘postprandial hyperglycemia’).

Blood sugar spikes occur when your blood glucose rises and falls sharply after eating (typically measured in a 2-hour window).

If you’ve ever experienced sugar cravings, mood swings, low energy, fatigue, increased thirst, blurred vision or headaches, you may have experienced the symptoms of a blood glucose spike.

Take our word for it: blood glucose spikes are not fun to deal with, and they’re something you’ll want to keep under control.

Why does blood glucose rise – let alone spike – at all?

When you eat any food containing carbohydrates, your body breaks it down to simple sugars. Those sugars then enter the bloodstream, and your pancreas releases the insulin hormone, which prompts your cells to absorb sugar from the blood.

Over time, your body may not be able to lower blood glucose effectively, leading to type 2 diabetes. In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can become sluggish in secreting insulin in response to a meal, causing blood glucose to rise.

The danger of high blood glucose

What’s most frightening is that many people have no idea their elevated blood glucose levels are impacting them, with many unaware they’re living with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

The danger of consistently high blood glucose is a greater risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia (to name a few).

If you live with type 2 diabetes, the risk of other complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputation are even higher.

So, it’s safe to say that keeping your blood glucose levels stable is crucial for good health.

Can certain foods help to manage blood sugar spikes?

Defeat Diabetes low carb dietitian Nicole Moore, APD, says, “The one thing that we can be certain of is that when you eat any food containing carbohydrates, you will almost always experience a rapid increase in blood glucose levels.

“When you add a source of fat and protein with your carbohydrates, the glycemic load of your meal is lower, which means a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream and a lower blood sugar spike than eating carbohydrates alone.

“By lowering the glycemic load, the delivery of glucose to the bloodstream is slower, and the blood glucose spike may be lessened (or as Glucose Goddess would say, “a flatter curve”).

“However, it’s still a dramatic increase in blood glucose that needs to be managed by the body.

“So when you’re insulin resistant and have a metabolic disease like pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes or another chronic disease, and you eat foods containing carbohydrates daily, this triggers chronic and daily blood glucose spikes.

“This contributes to inflammation and fat storage and can worsen insulin resistance in the long term – a disaster for people with type 2 diabetes”, said Nicole. 

“At the end of the day, when you eat ANY food containing carbohydrates, even foods with a lower glycemic index, the body must still produce insulin to manage the increase in blood glucose.

“Want my best tip for managing blood sugar spikes? Reduce or limit ALL sugars and foods containing carbohydrates in your diet.”

Can food sequencing help to reduce blood sugar spikes?

Nicole has reviewed the evidence and says there’s no strong scientific proof to suggest that eating food in a particular order can help reduce blood glucose spikes or improve your health. There’s a lack of other credible studies that have looked at the effect of food sequencing on blood glucose levels, let alone any that include people with type 2 diabetes.

One of the few studies on this subject is a 2019 study that looked at five different meal sequences provided to a small sample group of 16 healthy adults. The study found no overall difference in blood sugar spikes between groups.

So the bottom line is that while Glucose Goddess’s food sequencing hack might work for you, currently, there’s no substantial evidence behind the claim that eating food in a particular order can help prevent blood glucose spikes.

What matters most, as evidenced by gold-standard science, is reducing the amount of foods containing carbohydrates from entering your bloodstream.

How to reduce blood glucose spikes

We’ll say it again. The easiest way to reduce blood sugar spikes (without medication) is to limit foods containing carbohydrates that release sugar into the blood.

By reducing your intake of foods containing carbohydrates, you’ll have less sugar entering your bloodstream, which means less chance of your blood glucose rising.

Can a low carb carb diet help blood glucose spikes?

Yes! Adopting a low carb diet is one of the easiest ways to reduce the number of carbohydrates in your diet and send type 2 diabetes into remission.

A low carb diet has comprehensive and credible scientific evidence, and has demonstrated that it can improve blood glucose management in those with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

So, why not give it a try?!

The takeaway

It’s possible you may see some reductions in blood glucose spikes if you follow some of the Glucose Goddess hacks, mainly:

  • Limiting ultra-processed foods and sugar
  • Reducing your carbohydrate intake
  • Eating more protein and fats like butter and olive oil
  • Eating more vegetables
  • Eating lots of fibre

However, as far as food sequencing goes, it’s great that people like Glucose Goddess are using their knack for self-experimentation to help people understand the impact of glucose in the blood. Still, there’s a lack of scientific evidence (aside from anecdotal) to prove it works.

We hope there are more clinical trials and credible studies that look into food sequencing in more depth.

For now, if you’re looking for a proven way to reduce blood glucose spikes, the easiest way is to start by reducing the number of free sugars and carbohydrates in your diet and adopting a low carb diet.


6 tips to stabilise blood glucose (by a low carb dietitian):

  1. Avoid low fat foods.
  2. Limit foods with added sugar.
  3. Reduce your intake of soft drinks, fruit smoothies and flavoured milk.
  4. Say no to cakes, chocolate and desserts.
  5. Avoid foods with excess natural sugars such as milk, sugar, fruits and honey.
  6. Limit starchy carbs such as bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potato, crackers and breakfast cereals.

 

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