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Type 2 diabetes: The best time of the day to eat to avoid high blood sugar levels – advice

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Type 2 diabetes is the product of poor insulin production. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of blood sugar in your body. If you have diabetes, this function is impaired, which subsequently causes blood sugar levels to rise. High blood sugar levels can cause a cascade of problems (which often make up the first symptoms of type diabetes) so finding alternative means of regulating them is key to warding off further complications.

Making sensible dietary decisions can mimic the effect of insulin but what you eat is not the only thing that counts.

According to GP Doctor Sarah Brewer, working in association with diabetes experts CuraLife, the timing of your meals also plays a role in blood sugar control.

“You should aim to eat around the same time each day, so try to stick to your usual meal times when eating out,” advised Doctor Brewer.

“Eating little and often during the day may be better than having three large meals but always follow your doctor’s advice based on the medication you are taking.”

As she explained, when you eat acts as a powerful signal to your body’s internal regulatory systems.

For people without type 2 diabetes, recent research suggests that a high meal frequency (up to six meals a day) increases health risks compared to a low meal frequency (one to two meals a day).

“This may be related to the beneficial effects of fasting in reducing cholesterol levels, inflammation, increasing the breakdown of worn-out or damaged cells and effects on gut bacteria and stress resistance,” explains Doctor Brewer.

When you have type 2 diabetes, however, it’s important to avoid long gaps between eating in order to maintain blood glucose levels, she noted.

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“Some people may need to eat every three to four hours and most people with diabetes should not go more than five or six hours between eating.”

According to Doctor Brewer, “this will partly depend on the type of medication you are taking”.

“Always follow the advice of your own doctor.”

Portion size can also present hidden health risks.

“In general, it is best to avoid large meals as research shows that the more your blood glucose levels rise after a meal, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease,” warned Doctor Brewer.

It is also important to check the sugar content of the meals you’re eating.

Doctor Brewer advised checking labels of bought foods as some contain a lot more sugar than you might expect e.g. breakfast cereals, “healthy” cereal bars.

To help you identify the best and worst culprits for blood sugar control, you should refer to the glycemic index (GI).

The GI is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.

Carbohydrates are broken down quickly by your body and cause a rapid increase in blood glucose so they are the focus of the GI index.

Carbs that have a pronounced impact on blood sugar have a high GI rating.

High GI foods include:

  • Sugar and sugary foods
  • Sugary soft drinks
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • White rice.

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