Protein at breakfast controls blood sugar at lunch

"The first meal of the day is critical in maintaining glycemic control at later meals, so it really primes people for the rest of the day," says Jill Kanaley. (Credit: ruben alexander/Flickr)

Eating more protein at breakfast can help people with Type 2 diabetes reduce glucose spikes not only at that meal but at lunch as well.

“People often assume that their glucose response at one meal will be identical to their responses at other meals, but that really isn’t the case,” says Jill Kanaley, professor and associate chair of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.

“For instance, we know that what you eat and when you eat make a difference, and that if people skip breakfast, their glucose response at lunch will be huge. In our study, we found those who ate breakfast experienced appropriate glucose responses after lunch.”

First meal of the day

For a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers monitored Type 2 diabetics’ levels of glucose, insulin, and several gut hormones—which help regulate the insulin response—after breakfast and lunch. Participants ate either high-protein or high-carbohydrate breakfasts, and lunch that included a standard amount of protein and carbohydrates.

Eating more protein at breakfast lowered individuals’ post-meal glucose levels. Insulin levels were slightly elevated after the lunch meal, which shows that individuals’ bodies were working appropriately to regulate blood-sugar levels, Kanaley says.


“The first meal of the day is critical in maintaining glycemic control at later meals, so it really primes people for the rest of the day,” Kanaley says. “Eating breakfast prompts cells to increase concentrations of insulin at the second meal, which is good because it shows that the body is acting appropriately by trying to regulate glucose levels.

“However, it is important for Type 2 diabetics to understand that different foods will affect them differently, and to really understand how they respond to meals, they need to consistently track their glucose. Trigger foods may change depending on how much physical activity people have gotten that day or how long they have waited between meals.”

Although it would be helpful for individuals with high blood sugar to eat more protein, they don’t need to consume extreme amounts of protein to reap the benefits, Kanaley says. “We suggest consuming 25 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast, which is within the range of the FDA recommendations.”

The Egg Nutrition Center funded the work.

Source: University of Missouri