It All Comes Down to Fiber

When your mother tells you to eat your broccoli, you should listen.

Researchers are finding that eating broccoli, as well as other fiber-rich foods, can both improve blood-glucose levels and reduce the number of hypoglycemic events in people with type 1 diabetes-even if weight and insulin usage remains unchanged.

During a six-month study conducted in Italy involving 54 people, those who ate high-fiber foods fared better in both BG control and number of hypoglycemic events than others who followed a low-fiber diet. The results of the study were published in the October 2000 issue of Diabetes Care.

Both groups followed a diet that consisted of 20 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrates. The only difference in the diets was in the fiber and glycemic index levels of the foods.

Those on the high-fiber diet were encouraged to eat one serving of legumes, three servings of high fiber fruit (apples, oranges, pears and tangerines) and two servings of high-fiber vegetables (artichokes, eggplants, mushrooms and broccoli) per day. Individuals on the low-fiber diet were advised to limit legume consumption to less than once a week and to eat preferentially low-fiber fruit (bananas and fruit juice) and low-fiber vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, red cabbage and pepper).

Compared with the low-fiber diet, the high-fiber diet improved the blood glucose daily profile and significantly reduced the mean daily blood glucose concentration, researchers say.

Among those who followed the diet, average glucose levels reported 202 mg/dl for the high-fiber group versus 265 mg/dl for the low-fiber group. HbA1c levels also were lower for the high fiber group—8.6 percent versus 9.2 percent for the low-fiber group.

Those on the high-fiber diet experienced less than one hypoglycemic event per month, versus 1.5 hypoglycemic events per month for the low-fiber group.

Referring to the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, in which it was noted that tight BG control resulted in more incidents of hypoglycemia, researchers noted that their study shows a high-fiber diet can improve control while reducing the incidence of hypoglycemia.

Triglycerides, cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels, insulin dosage and body weight were not affected by the diets, but 56 percent of those on the high-fiber diet reported some minor gastrointestinal side effects.

“Because the two diets were similar for all nutrients, the results obtained can be ascribed only to the different consumption of high-fiber foods,” researchers say.

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