In our last article, we discussed the scientific study of rhythms and clocks in our body, called Chronobiology. What has this to do with diabetes?
A fascinating study from University of Chicago was published back in 1997, where volunteers were hooked up to an intravenous glucose infusion at a constant rate throughout 24 hours. Measured blood sugars varied a great deal between morning and evening, even though the intake of sugar was constant. In fact, there is a phenomenon known as ‘afternoon diabetes’, where patients may have normal blood sugars in the morning but rise into the diabetic range if measured in the afternoons.
What does this have to do with our daily lives? If you eat highly processed carbohydrates, which have a high glycaemic load, you may be able to get by if your meal is in the mornings, but your blood sugars will become excessively high if you eat the same types of foods in the evenings. Such highly processed carbohydrates include sugar-loaded drinks, pastries, refined grains, and desserts. These contrast with low-glycaemic carbohydrates like fruit, unrefined grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. These latter foods will not cause such high sugar spikes in your blood in the evenings.
This phenomenon may be another reason why eating a big meal of highly refined foods at night is more likely to increase obesity, than having a hearty breakfast and a light meal in the evenings. In fact, in a study published in 2015, people who skip breakfast were found to have a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and atherosclerosis in general. This may be because the bad LDL cholesterol is higher in breakfast-skippers.
These findings would suggest that if you want to reduce your risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, eating a good breakfast is a wise practice to adopt.
Unfortunately, because of the disruption in their body clocks, people who do night duty, like nurses and security personnel, are at significantly greater risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer – another reason to honour the nursing profession, who are putting their lives on the line to ensure you are well cared for at night. (For my nursing colleagues, all is not lost – it has been found that if you still try to eat most of your food during the daytime – like before going on duty in the evenings, and then have a healthy, low-fat meal before going to sleep the next morning, you may avoid these risks. But be aware, when you are tired after a long night, you often will crave highly refined or fatty foods. Now you know!)
Dr Dave Glass
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