Glycemic index and diabetes, more complex than we realized

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As is often the case, our hubris when it comes to our nutritional knowledge is embarrassing.    Have diabetes or pre-diabetes?  Simple, all you have to do is eat low glycemic index foods, right?  WRONG!

Turns out that, surprise, surprise, different people react differently to the same foods.  What spikes the blood sugar in one person will not budge it in another.    In other words, we really don’t understand how food is digested.

Researchers speculate that the differing flora of bacteria resident in peoples small intestines are responsible for these differing reactions to foods.  Peter Turnbaugh at UCSF is doing a lot of research in this field.  There are two things you can take away from this.  The above article draws the conclusion that people who are pre-diabetic need personalized nutritional plans to help them figure out which foods keep their blood sugar stable.  The thing is, most fitness minded diabetics already know that because they are in tune with their bodies and already know what works for them and what doesn’t.

What is *really* exciting here is the possibility that we can help diabetics simply by improving the bacteria resident in their intestines.  Its funny.  Peanut allergies, celiacs disease, gluten intolerance, and many other nutritional maladies have all hinted that the flora in the intestines is somehow involved.  It keeps coming back to flora but we cant quite put all the pieces together.  In any case, if diabetics could find a way to improve their flora, they might be able to get their diabetes under control with diet alone.

The one thing we do know is that fiber in the diet does improve the conditions in the intestines.  Perhaps this is why there are so many reports that vegan nutrition can help control diabetes, because the high fiber of this nutritional type improves the intestinal flora.   This is completely anecdotal evidence and I acknowledge this, but I know some people at sweat4health who have successfully controlled their diabetes by simply using a low carb diet (very high in fiber).   If I was a diabetic, the first thing I would try is a diet of unprocessed foods high in fiber-rich, fresh vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach.   If I were diabetic, I would also consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan and I would also be very careful about consuming pesticides and any processed foods.

The bacteria living in the gut of our great grandparents was FAR healthier than it is in us today.  Something about what we are eating or what we have been exposed to has affected it and is causing all these problems, but we don’t know what.  Maybe its high fructose corn syrup, maybe its todays over-bred wheat varieites, maybe its pesticides, maybe its the excessive use of anti-bacterial soap. Who knows.  One of these days the scientific community is going to have an “ah HA!” moment and we will figure all this stuff out, but for now, we just keep getting tantalizing pieces of a big puzzle.

DYEV - Do You Eat Vegetables?