I had the opportunity to read a fascinating little article in the July issue of Diabetes Care (1). What was interesting about this article is that one of the primary authors is a leading academic proponent for the use of drugs to treat obesity and diabetes.
In particular, this research asked the simple question: Would eating protein before eating carbohydrates in a meal have any impact on blood sugar and insulin responses in type 2 diabetic patients? To study that question required a very simple experiment. Researchers gave the diabetic patients the same breakfast at two different times, one time eating the carbohydrates first and the second time eating the protein first. The other interesting thing was the breakfast was pretty close to a Zone breakfast in that the composition of the meal was 35% protein, 43% carbohydrate, and 22% fat. Of course, it contained too many calories (628 calories vs. my recommended less than 400), but that was a detail.
What they found was that by eating the protein first followed by the carbohydrates, both the blood glucose and insulin increases in diabetic patients were dramatically reduced by 74% and 49% respectively during the next two-hour period. So what did the authors think of their results? They wrote “the magnitude of the effect of food order on glucose levels is comparable to that observed with pharmacological agents.” That is a pretty strong statement coming from one of the chief academic spokespersons for the diabetic drug industry.
But could they have achieved even better results? Probably by reducing the protein content of the breakfast from 58 g to 30 grams, reducing the carbohydrate content from 68 grams to 40 grams and reducing the fat content from 16 grams to 13 grams. This would have decreased the calorie intake from 628 calories to 397 calories. Not surprisingly, that would result in a macronutrient composition of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. And since you have lower levels of carbohydrates and calories, the decreases in glucose and insulin would have been even greater. In fact, that was demonstrated by Harvard Medical School in 1999 (2).
As I was reading this article, I thought something seemed very familiar about this remarkable new medical breakthrough in controlling glucose levels in diabetics simply by eating protein first before consuming carbohydrates. The reason it sounded so familiar to me is because I wrote about it in 1997 in my book Mastering the Zone (3). In particular, it was Helpful Hint #13 on page 56. If Mastering the Zone had not been a New York Times bestseller with more than one million copies sold, I might understand why it took nearly 20 years for the diabetic establishment to understand how a simple dietary change of eating adequate protein first before eating carbohydrates would be equivalent to any drug. Unfortunately, with more than one million copies of Mastering the Zone in circulation, it is hard to understand why it took so long to understand that food order (if it is a Zone meal) is more powerful than a drug. Do you think it might be the money?
- Shukla AP, IIiescu RG, Thomas CE, and Aronne LJ. “Food order has a significant impact on postprandial glucose and insulin levels.” Diabetes Care 38:e98-e99 (2015).
- Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, and Roberts SB. “High-glycemic-index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103:e26 (1999).
- Sears B. Mastering the Zone. Regan Books. New York, NY (1997).