Diabetes type 2: The 55p food that causes blood sugar levels to plummet by 35% – study

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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Type 2 diabetes means your body cannot process insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar – the main sugar found in blood. With insulin supply hampered, blood sugar levels can rise to dangerous levels. Fortunately, diet offers an alternative means of controlling high blood sugar levels.

Specific dietary swaps can cause blood sugar levels to plummet and a new study suggests lentils are adept at countering blood sugar spikes.

According to a study led by researchers from the University of Guelph, replacing potatoes with lentils can cause a 35 percent drop in blood sugar levels.

Professor Alison Duncan, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, and Dan Ramdath of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, found that swapping out half of a portion of starchy side dishes for lentils can significantly improve your body’s response to the carbohydrates.

Carbs are broken down into blood glucose (sugar) relatively fast, which causes a spike in blood sugar levels.

“Pulses are extremely nutrient-dense food that have the potential to reduce chronic diseases associated with mismanaged glucose levels,” said Prof Duncan, who worked on the study with PhD student Dita Moravek and M.Sc. students Erica Rogers, Sarah Turkstra and Jessica Wilson.

“We are hoping this research will make people more aware of the health benefits of eating pulses.”

Published in the Journal of Nutrition, the study involved 24 healthy adults fed four dishes – white rice only, half white rice and half large green lentils, half white rice and half small green lentils, and half white rice and half split red lentils.

Researchers measured glucose levels in the participants’ blood before they ate and during two hours afterward.

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They repeated the process for white potatoes alone and the same combinations of potatoes and lentils.

“We mixed the lentils in with the potatoes and rice because people don’t typically eat pulses on their own, but rather consume them in combination with other starches as part of a larger meal, so we wanted the results to reflect that.”

Blood glucose fell by similar amounts when half of the starch was replaced with each of the three types of lentils.

Pulses, such as lentils, can slow digestion and the release of sugars found in starch into the bloodstream, ultimately reducing blood glucose levels, said Prof Duncan.

“This slower absorption means you don’t experience a spike in glucose. Having high levels over a period of time can lead to mismanagement of blood glucose, which is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes. Essentially, eating lentils can lower that risk.”

Pulses contain components that inhibit enzymes involved in absorption of glucose, and fibre contained in these foods can encourage the production of short-chain fatty acids, which can also help to reduce blood glucose levels, added Prof Duncan.

“We are hoping that building evidence for approval of a health claim for pulses will further encourage people to add pulses to their side dishes.”

Type 2 diabetes – do you have it?

Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising. This is because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision.

See a GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, advises the NHS.

“You’ll need a blood test, which you may have to go to your local health centre for if it cannot be done at your GP surgery,” explains the health body.

The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better.

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