Life Wellbeing Hungry all the time? Your blood sugar level is leading you astray

Hungry all the time? Your blood sugar level is leading you astray

Can't help snacking just before dinner time? Time to monitor your blood sugar and get diet advice. Photo: Getty
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Monitoring your blood sugar levels isn’t just a must-do chore for diabetics. It could be the key to solving your struggles with losing weight.

New research has found that if you’re hungry all the time, and you tend to snack before your next proper meal, then you’re probably suffering from a routine drop in blood sugar levels.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling when your blood sugar drops, and can be fatal for diabetics.

The only way to make yourself feel better is to eat something. The sweeter the snack, the quicker the recovery.

See the problem?

The net result, researchers say, is you’re haplessly consuming hundreds more calories every day than people whose blood sugar levels are more stable.

Blood sugar is usually measured within two hours after eating a meal, in what’s known as the blood sugar peak.

The researchers found the blood sugar level hours later provided a more meaningful picture of person’s hunger.

Dr Sarah Berry, Nutritional Sciences researcher from King’s College London, in a prepared statement said: “It has long been suspected that blood sugar levels play an important role in controlling hunger, but the results from previous studies have been inconclusive.

“We’ve now shown that sugar dips are a better predictor of hunger and subsequent calorie intake than the initial blood sugar peak response after eating, changing how we think about the relationship between blood sugar levels and the food we eat.”

This new study is part of the PREDICT project, the largest ongoing nutritional research program in the world that looks at responses to food in real-life settings.

How did they do this?

The research team collected detailed data about blood sugar responses and other markers of health from 1070 people after they ate standardised breakfasts and freely chosen meals over a two-week period.

The standard breakfasts were based on muffins containing the same amount of calories but varying in composition in terms of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre.

Participants also carried out a fasting blood sugar response test (oral glucose tolerance test) to measure how well their body processes sugar.

Participants wore stick-on continuous glucose monitors to measure their blood sugar levels over the entire duration of the study, as well as a wearable device to monitor activity and sleep.

They also recorded levels of hunger and alertness using a phone app, along with exactly when and what they ate over the day.

After analysing the data, the researchers noticed that some people experienced significant ‘sugar dips’ two to four hours after the initial postprandial peak, “where their blood sugar levels fell rapidly below baseline before coming back up”.

People who routinely experienced big dips had a 9 per cent increase in hunger, and waited about half an hour less, on average, before their next meal than little dippers, even though they ate exactly the same meals.

These ‘big dippers’ also ate 75 more calories in the three to four hours after breakfast and some 312 calories more over the whole day than people whose blood sugar was more stable.

This kind of pattern could potentially turn into nine kilograms of weight gain over a year.

The researchers found “some variability in the size of the dips experienced by each person in response to eating the same meals on different days, suggesting that whether you’re a dipper or not depends on individual differences in metabolism, as well as the day-to-day effects of meal choices and activity levels”.

How to fix this problem?

Bottom line: Foods with healthy fats, such as nuts, and eating more protein than carbs can keep your blood sugar more stable for longer, and hunger pains at bay.

If you recognise yourself in this story, a doctor or nutritionist can investigate the peaks and troughs of your blood sugar level, and put together a plan.

As the researchers conclude: “Choosing foods that work together with your unique biology could help people feel fuller for longer and eat less overall.”

In other words, it’s an individual thing.

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