Protein or Probiotic May Help Control Blood Sugar

Adding protein-rich or probiotic-laden foods to your diet may help control your blood sugar levels, according to a pair of new studies.

Both proteins and probiotics appear to slow down digestion of carbohydrates, preventing blood sugar spikes that can lead to type 2 diabetes or exacerbate damage done by the disease, researchers found.

Eating tuna fish with a slice of white bread produced a slower rise in blood sugar than eating carbs alone, said Huicui Meng, who led one of the studies. She’s a postdoctoral researcher at Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston in Boston.

Meanwhile, people who added foods rich in probiotics — a type of “good” bacteria — to their heart-healthy DASH diet achieved a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels, said Arjun Pandey, a student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute in Ontario, Canada.

The results of both studies were presented this week at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in New Orleans. But until peer-reviewed for publication in a medical journal, the conclusions should be considered preliminary.

Although both were small-scale studies, the pair provide useful information that people can put into practice with their daily diets, said Dr. Prakash Deedwania, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. He is also vice chair of the American Heart Association’s diabetes committee.

“These are lifestyle changes that are easy to do, and important for the large amount of the population who have metabolic syndrome or are prediabetic,” said Deedwania. People with metabolic syndrome have risk factors that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

For the protein-carbohydrate study, Meng’s team asked four groups of about 20 people each to eat specific foods. Their blood sugar levels were measured at regular intervals over two hours.

The groups ate white bread accompanied by either rice squares cereal (carbohydrates), tuna fish (protein), unsalted butter (fat), or oat circles cereal (fiber).

“Protein may stimulate the release of some gut hormones that may slow the gastric empty rate,” Meng said. That’s the speed at which food leaves the stomach for digestion in the intestines.