Last week, I was in San Francisco, California along with over 15,000 diabetes professionals from across the globe who went to get the latest science about prediabetes and diabetes. Of course, I was laser-focused on any research on prediabetes and how it could help us.
The American Diabetes Association’s 79th Scientific Sessions offers several days worth of lectures from leaders in the field. It was jam-packed with research and super exciting.
Now that my brain is mush from 5 days of heavy science, I want to share some highlights that apply to folks like you and me. So, rest assured you won’t hear me talk about the minutiae of the cellular level or the Krebs cycle (heck, I barely got a basic understanding of that in school)! I’ve also included some photos to give you an idea about what it’s like to be at this global conference.
The really cool part of this year’s conference is that there were a vast array of sessions on eating styles like low carb vs. very low carb, going keto, intermittent fasting and their effects on weight loss, blood pressure, cholesterol and preventing type 2.
My biggest takeaway from this conference ultimately is that there’s no one way or style of eating that works for everyone. And this is actually a good thing!
It means that we can eat in the style we most prefer and are comfortable with personally and culturally. And that we only need to make small, intentional adjustments to see improvements in our overall health and wellness. That’s pretty exciting, don’t you agree?
Another thing that I want to emphasize is that research into the areas of low-carb vs. very low carb, keto, and intermittent fasting is what we call “emerging.” Think of it as new and promising research. Many of the conference presenters stressed that we need more data and more studies. For example, when we look at the keto diet in vegetarians, we don’t actually have long-term data yet.
Here are some sound bites going from general to specific:
The Key To Losing Weight
When focusing on losing weight, it’s critical to create an “energy deficit.” You can do this by reducing your total calories by a small amount each day. Start by cutting out 100 calories a day and then build up from there to about 500 calories. Once you’ve created this energy deficit it should begin to help you lose weight. Check out this cool weight loss calculator to determine the best weight-loss goal for you based on age, height, and other lifestyle factors..
Are Your Genes To Blame?
The rumors are true. Some of us really do have a genetic predisposition (meaning we CAN blame our parents!) that makes it more difficult for us to drop pounds. The good news is that it’s not likely to affect you as it only involves a very small percentage of the population – AND – even with this additional hurdle, it’s STILL possible to lose weight.
How To Improve Your Blood Sugars
If your goal is to lower your blood sugar, then reducing overall carbohydrate intake is the way to go. BUT if you look at the photo below, in terms of reducing the risk of diabetes, low-carb and very low-carb do not show evidence of preventing type 2 diabetes. However, a Mediterranean style eating pattern, vegetarian/vegan, low-fat, and the DASH diet all show evidence of being effective at lowering overall blood sugars. Plus, they all have been shown to help with weight loss!
Key Points To Consider
Ultimately, I left the conference understanding that we still need more robust data. There’s still a lot we just don’t know for sure. Luckily, more research studies are underway and they may show that low-carb and very low-carb are indeed beneficial to preventing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
So what do we know for sure? Here are a few key points that have substantial research supporting them. Some of these may be new to you, but I am betting that you’ve heard of the Keto diet before and possibly even Intermittent Fasting or IF.
Key Points To Consider
- There’s no difference in the amount of weight loss when going low carb or low fat.
- A ketogenic (“keto”) diet is superior at facilitating weight loss, but many find it difficult to maintain.
- Intermittent fasting has many cool approaches (including synching it with your circadian clock). One effective approach is to eat like a king for breakfast. Meaning, eat most of your daily food intake for breakfast, less for lunch, and even less for dinner.
Eat Your Bread Last
Have you ever considered the order in which you eat what’s on your plate? It may be a bigger factor than we’ve previously thought. This concept is called the “nutrient sequence.” And it focuses on the order of in which you eat your carbs in relation to your protein and your vegetables when you sit down to a meal.
New research was presented that showed that while following a low carbohydrate diet is often difficult to sustain, you can offset the metabolic effects of carbohydrates (how carbs affect your blood sugar) by eating your protein and veggies first. Save your carbs for last!
One of the biggest benefits of changing up your eating order is that you’ll feel fuller and therefore, eat less. This of course often results in better blood sugars.
So when you go out to eat, why not ask your server to hold the breadsticks until the end of the meal? And choose your food wisely. Picking out all the chicken and veggies in your bowl of Chicken Chow Mein before you eat the noodles isn’t really realistic. And it’s probably pretty messy. So it may take some time to rethink how you serve your meals.
Hey, maybe all those fussy eaters who never let their food touch on their plates are on to something? (My copywriter added that last part because apparently, she’s Queen of the No-Touch Food Eaters)!
Check out the graph showing how glucose responded to eating carbs first vs. last! That’s an impressive difference illustrated by the red line or carbs-last line. The blue line shows the effect of eating carbs last during a meal.
Increases In Type 2 Diabetes Rates
Another really interesting topic to hear about concerned the increased rates of developing diabetes in relation to air pollution, exposure to increasing heat, and to late-night screen time. You may have already heard that late-night screen time and the exposure to the blue light which it produces is associated with gaining weight. So keep those phones and TVs off before and after bed you head to bed.
The bottom line is this: Follow an eating pattern, not a diet.
We can’t be perfect and we already know that diets fail. An eating pattern enables us to do our best to be consistent (not perfect!) and to avoid feeling like a failure when we decide to eat something outside of our plan.
Because let’s face it. It’s important that we enjoy the pleasure of eating. If we try to deprive ourselves of that we’re doomed to fail. The human body and mind aren’t built for that.
So while It can be confusing to decide what to eat, when to eat, and now what order to eat, I hope this gives you some confidence in knowing there are many approaches you can take. That there is no one way that works for everyone.
So, here’s to you, to eating patterns, and to consistency over perfection. Choose well, eat well and buon appetito!