Health Team

Diet can lower blood sugar, cardiovascular risk

Posted December 16, 2008 5:40 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2008 8:12 p.m. EST

A new study shows a diet of low-glycemic foods can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Toronto studied the effect two different diets had on glucose levels in 210 participants over a six-month period.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Our study explores the effect of slowing the rate of digestion on blood glucose levels in diabetics and whether this can be used as part of their treatment,” the university's Dr. David Jenkins said.

Jenkins and his colleagues have been working with foods and their effects in diabetes for more than 25 years. Low-glycemic foods release glucose more slowly than high-glycemic food.

Each participant was given either a high-fiber diet, including whole wheat breads, cereals, brown rice and baked potatoes, or a diet of low-glycemic foods, like beans, oats, berries and pumpernickel bread.

“In our low-glycemic diet, we have foods that are digested more slowly or the sugar that is digested is released into the blood stream more slowly,” University of Toronto dietitian Sandy Mitchell said.

The low-glycemic diet did the best job of lowering blood glucose levels and the patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

“It raised the healthy cholesterol, the HDL cholesterol, which is often low in type 2 diabetes and may be one of the risk factors for heart disease,” Jenkins said.

All the participants in the study were already taking at least one medication for diabetes to lower their blood sugar levels, but they were not getting insulin injections.