Study Suggests Eating Order May Prevent Diabetes

by Ella

New research has emerged, suggesting that the order in which you consume your meals may play a role in preventing diabetes. This revelation comes as prediabetes, a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, affects over 96 million U.S. adults, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Prediabetes is now under the spotlight due to its association with chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, neuropathy, chronic kidney disease, cancer, and dementia. The study, published on October 20, 2023, in the journal Nutrients, highlights the importance of addressing prediabetes as it can lead to severe health consequences.


The good news is that making lifestyle adjustments, including dietary modifications and increased physical activity, can mitigate the risk of prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes and lower the overall risk of disease.


The research aimed to investigate a specific eating pattern wherein participants prioritized consuming protein and non-starchy vegetables before carbohydrate-rich foods. It builds upon previous studies that suggested specific nutrient orders could influence blood glucose levels and weight loss. Importantly, the study sought to assess the practicality and sustainability of this approach in real-life scenarios.


For this study, researchers divided prediabetic participants into two groups. The first group, referred to as the C group, received standard nutrition counseling. The second group, the FO group, received standard nutrition counseling along with guidance to eat protein and non-starchy vegetables first at every meal and save carbohydrate-rich foods for the last portion of their meal.


Both groups underwent an oral glucose tolerance test at the start and conclusion of the 16-week study period. The participants’ physical activity levels were also evaluated at the beginning and end of the study, with instructions not to alter their activity levels during the study.

Both groups received standard nutrition counseling that emphasized a healthy and diverse diet based on the USDA’s MyPlate framework. The FO group, however, received additional guidance on the order of consumption, emphasizing protein and non-starchy vegetables before carbohydrates. Participants from both groups maintained food diaries for the 16-week duration.

It’s worth noting that the study spanned a period that included the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating a shift from in-person counseling to telephone and video sessions.

The researchers anticipated that the FO group would show improved results in glucose tolerance tests and HbA1c (a 90-day average of blood sugar levels) after 16 weeks. Surprisingly, no significant differences were observed between the two groups in these aspects. However, both groups showed promising trends toward lower blood sugar levels compared to baseline, suggesting that longer-term observation might yield more significant results.

Regarding weight loss, the FO group, particularly those who participated before the pandemic, exhibited greater weight loss, shedding an average of six pounds compared to just one pound in the C group. Notably, participants in the FO group during the pandemic phase had less weight loss, similar to the C group, which indicates that the change from in-person to remote sessions may have affected results. Stress during the pandemic could have also played a role, influencing hunger and satiety hormones.

A curious finding emerged when comparing pre-pandemic groups. The C group reduced their overall calorie intake but experienced minimal weight loss. In contrast, the FO group, despite not reducing their calorie intake, achieved greater weight loss and increased their vegetable consumption, expressing that this modification felt sustainable.

This study suggests that altering the order of food consumption, starting with protein and non-starchy vegetables and ending with carbohydrate-rich foods, may lead to weight loss, increased vegetable intake, and improved blood sugar levels. The explanation lies in the reduced consumption of carbohydrates due to decreased hunger by the time they are consumed. This aligns with diets emphasizing higher protein and lower carbohydrate intake, known to facilitate weight loss.

However, it’s essential to remember that various dietary patterns, including the Mediterranean diet and others that incorporate healthy carbohydrates, can also support weight loss. The key takeaway is to select an eating pattern that suits individual preferences, practice mindful eating, stay physically active, manage stress, and ensure adequate sleep. Experimenting with the order of food consumption may be enjoyable and sustainable, potentially increasing vegetable consumption and promoting blood sugar control in the process.



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