Learning how to balance your blood sugar is key to keeping your weight on an even keel and reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But how do you know how resilient your blood sugar control is?
People with diabetes know that the best measure of blood sugar control is something called HbA1C – otherwise known as ‘glycoslated haemoglobin’. It’s actually a vital statistic we all need to know because it tells you how good you are at keeping your blood sugar balanced which is the key to weight control, feeling full of vigour with stamina to keep going without energy slumps. The haemoglobin bit means ‘red blood cells’ which last for about 3 months. Every time your blood sugar level goes too high some red blood cells get sugar damaged. The blood sugar spikes send sugar to the liver, where it turns into fat, and are often followed by blood sugar lows, which is what makes you feel lethargic. You want an HBA1c score of no more than 5.5%. Above 6.5% is pre-diabetic and above 7% is diabetic.
If you’re gaining weight around your middle, feel tired a lot of the time, get energy slumps, crave carbs, have brain fogs, get thirsty and pee a lot these are all potential signs of losing your blood sugar control.
So, what kind of diets works best for lowering HbA1C?
Let’s take a look at three GP practice experiments: The first involved recommending a low carb diet, where you basically avoid bread, pasta, rice etc. A great advocate of this is Dr David Unwin, a GP from Stockport, who puts his diabetic patients on this kind of diet. He collected data on 125 such patients over 15 months and found that their HbA1c dropped from 8.6% to 6.5% - that’s a 32% drop. They also lost, on average, 8.6kg – or 1.3lbs a month. His diet, in fact, is closer to mine in that he shows his patient what the ‘teaspoons of sugar’ equivalents are in food which is actually the same as the GL (quantity of carb multiplied by the GI – or speed of release of the sugars in that food.
Another medical practice, in Wokingham, also put their patients on a low carb diet and their HBA1c dropped by 24%, losing an average of 9kg over six months – or 3.3lbs a month.
A group of doctors in Marlow put 21 of their patients on my low GL diet for 3 months. Their HBAIc dropped from 6.9 to 5.9%, that’s a 14.5% drop. They lost 7kg on average – or 5lbs a month.
So, each was effective, with the HbA1C becoming closer to normal the longer the person was on the diet. The most effective for weight loss was my Low GL Diet, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, the patients weren’t followed over a year.
Each of these trials were diet only, but I like to also recommend supplementing the mineral chromium. Here’s why.
In a study of people with diabetes 39 were given 600mcg of chromium – that’s three 200mcg pills a day. Their average HBA1c was 8.5% and dropped to 6.8% in four months. That’s a 20% reduction without any planned dietary change.
A meta-analysis of 22 studies giving chromium, at variable amounts, for at least eight weeks reported a ‘significantly improved glycaemic control’ which HbA1c scores dropping by 0.5% (assuming the average baseline was 8% then this would mean dropping to 7.5% - a decrease of about 10%.) What’s also clear is that less than 200mcg doesn’t work as well as 600mcg. Chromium becomes toxic at 10,000mcg.
Just imagine what would happen if you both followed a low carb or low GL diet and took chromium?
Adding chromium (ideally with cinnamon, which further stabilises blood sugar) to your low GL diet has other benefits.
Three studies have reported significant mood improvements: one giving chromium to people with depression, another giving chromium to women with premenstrual mood disorders and another to women prone to binge eating. All reported clear benefits. The second found‘ greater reductions in bingeing, weight, and depression’ on chromium versus placebo. In the depression trial, 6 out of ten people came out of their depression. (They had selected people with ‘atypical’ depression with symptoms of tiredness and carb cravings and poor appetite control, as well as depression)
Chromium is very popular because sugar addicts find it cuts their cravings. Consequently they eat less and lose more weight. A double-blind placebo-controlled study in 2008 randomly assigned 42 overweight adult women with carbohydrate cravings to receive chromium or placebo for 8 weeks. Chromium, as compared to placebo, reduced food intake, hunger levels and cravings and decreased body weight.
I’d love someone to do a study of my low GL diet with chromium, but for now we have to rely on anecdotal reports of the hundreds of people I meet who find the combination of the two has transformed their blood sugar balance, reversed their diabetes, and helped them regain their weight control. Perhaps you’re one of them. If so, do please let me know by emailing email@example.com.
Paiva AN et al., ‘Beneficial effects of oral chromium picolinate supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical study.’ J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015 Oct;32:66-72
Suksomboon N et al., 'Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes'. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014 Jun;39(3):292-306.