Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Eat for your microbes: lose weight fast, gain control of your blood sugar in only one week!

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Photo by Pacific Northwest Laboratory on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

I know that I really shouldn’t comment on this research without reading the actual journal article but that hasn’t been published yet and I can’t resist jumping into the fray. Is there a fray? Not really. I just keep seeing people retweeting this and everyone seems all excited about the possibility of these individualized and I need to put a little rain on the parade.

The article starts off sounding great. Who doesn’t want a bespoke diet? Considering the number of people who have asked me as a dietitian to “just tell me what to eat” I think that most people want someone to hand them a nice little meal plan. Of course, most meal plans would be “bespoke” in a sense as any professional worth their credentials is going to tailor the menu to the client. But, I’m not here to quibble about what exactly makes a meal plan bespoke.

So, apparently the researchers looked at how different people react (in terms of blood sugar) to the consumption of different foods. They found a wide range of responses and linked those responses to the types of gut microbes residing in the participants digestive tracts. Then in another study (of only 20 participants) each participants was given a unique diet to control blood sugar and one that was designed to increase blood sugar. Unfortunately, the diets aren’t described in the article so it’s hard to say how much they differed for each participant. There’s also no explanation as to how this ties in to the earlier research looking at the microbiome. In a shocking turn of events, on the diets designed to control blood sugar some (again the article doesn’t indicate how many) participants blood sugar levels returned to normal. On the “bad” diets they had blood sugar spikes that “would be described as glucose intolerant” according to one of the researchers. Essentially, they exhibited diabetes or similar conditions.

The article then goes on to say that this research somehow shows that calories aren’t the only player when it comes to weight loss. What? I thought the research was looking at blood glucose levels. There was no mention of weight change in participants. While I certainly agree that there are many other factors at play, in addition to calorie consumption when it comes to weight management, I fail to see how this research examined this issue at all.

What makes me a little more leery about this study is that the researcher says it’s surprising that ice cream (for example) doesn’t cause huge blood sugar spikes, and that buttered bread has less impact on blood glucose than unbuttered bread. Have these people not heard of glycemic load before? Of course blood glucose responses are going to be mitigated when high carbohydrate foods are consumed with fat or protein. That’s why it’s important to look at how people are consuming foods rather than examining the effect of specific foods in isolation.

I’m trying to withhold full judgement until the research is published. I think that the human microbiome is a fascinating emerging area of research. However, on the basis of this article all I’m envisioning are more scam diet books urging people to eat for their microbes.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

7 thoughts on “Eat for your microbes: lose weight fast, gain control of your blood sugar in only one week!

  1. All I could think of while reading this is how funny it’ll be when confused people on the “blood type diet” read about the new “microbe diet” and it contradicts the previous one and they self-implode.

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  2. Reading this article you wrote on the not so great studies at this point (as you nor I have read the journal article) and I am talking out load, “Oh, really!” or “Come on, we know these things!” then I reminded myself that most media will misrepresent the information and so many lay people (as my husband would say) everyone will be on the fermented food diet. The diet with live active cultures not just yogurt. SMH

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  3. Wow- yes, this part was surprising given the supposed pedigree of someone writing this type of article:

    “What makes me a little more leery about this study is that the researcher says it’s surprising that ice cream (for example) doesn’t cause huge blood sugar spikes, and that buttered bread has less impact on blood glucose than unbuttered bread. Have these people not heard of glycemic load before? Of course blood glucose responses are going to be mitigated when high carbohydrate foods are consumed with fat or protein.”

    I was diagnosed borderline diabetic in 1997, full on in 1999. There are differing schools of thought on what “Type” I am, because it was adult onset (typically, Type II), but within a span of 3 years, my pancreas completely shut down and stopped producing any insulin (typically, Type I)… over the next two years, I had a few incidents where it “squeezed” some insulin out at night (for no known reason) and BOOM… blood glucose CRASH… one time, it landed me in the hospital with a reading of 23. I guess that’s better than the morgue. I’ve been on insulin since 2000 and have recently started using TOUJEO, a u300 long-acting insulin(along with NOVALOG u100 with meals) and after a period of adjustment, it’s working well for me

    The point I was trying to get to (in my roundabout way) is that ALL diabetics need to learn how their bodies process carbohydrates… not all carbs are alike. And yes, fats seriously temper how carbs are processed… pasta with Alfredo sauce doesn’t spike my glucose like plain pasta or pasta with marinara does.

    That said, there are other differences and in speaking with diabetic friends, there isn’t a lot of consistency. For myself, rice or rice noodles spike my glucose and my numbers remain high and taper off slowly over for 12 to 16 hours. Bread and egg noodles don’t cause that- they spike my glucose, but it tapers off in 6 to 8 hours. Fruit tapers in 4 to 6 hours. And in ALL of these cases, if cheese or butter or other fats are consumed with these items, the spike is much lower.

    You need to closely monitor your glucose levels and track the foods you’re consuming (including the combinations of foods) to determine what effects you and how. Test before and 4 hours after meals, then you’ll get a better idea of your tolerance for certain food items. As an example, for me? It’s no more nigiri sushi and more sashimi, boiled potatoes with butter instead of plain, pasta with white sauce instead of red, bread with olive oil or butter instead of plain.

    YES… in all of these cases, there are more calories, but if you cut back on the quantity, eat them less frequently and make them part of a meal instead of your main meal, you may find you’ll gain better glucose control.

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience Larry. It will be interesting to see, as research evolves, whether or not these individual reactions to carbohydrates are indeed attributable to differing gut microbes.

      Funny you should mention sushi, another person with diabetes I know was just saying the other day that she can never seem to adequately adjust her insulin when consuming sushi. Possibly something to do with the rice being soaked in sugar water.

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      • Sushi rice is short grain, high gluten content rice that is treated with rice wine vinegar. Most Chinese rice dishes call for “washing” the rice, which removes the excess starch from the exterior of the grains, leaving what many Chinese people refer to as “rice bones” that you cook. The rice is washed in tap warm water multiple times until the runoff is clear. In doing this, the carbohydrate count drops significantly, but unfortunately, I’ve yet to find any carb counting guides that take this into account.

        “Sushi rice” on the other hand is NOT washed, only a quick rinse with cold water before cooking. This allows it to adhere to itself when pressed into ‘balls’ for nigiri style sushi or rolled with seaweed, or alone, for roll style sushi.

        Unwashed long grain rice, 200gms, 216 cals, 45g carbs
        Unwashed short grain rice, 180gms, 242 cals, 53g carbs

        And there’s no question the washed long grain is MUCH lower in carbs and likely calories as well, given you’re removing th e majority of the starch.

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  4. Pingback: The no tomatoes, plenty of cookies diet | bite my words

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