As a dietitian, I am both fascinated and flustered by new research. Once I think we have it all figured out, new information is presented, causing either an epic realization or complete confusion of what I thought was truth.
We all know the importance of providing science-based recommendations, so perhaps instead of looking at the daunting array of research as confusing, let's think of it as a better way to personalize nutrition for our clients. Several nutrition-focused organizations including the American Diabetes Association (ADA) confirmed that the one-size-fits all approach is impossible; the focus is now on how we take new scientific knowledge and apply it to the individual needs of those who seek our dietary guidance.
One recent study not only supported the idea of individualized nutrition recommendations, but also offered a glimpse into the convergence of technology with dietetics. It’s focus: blood sugar management.
We have plenty of tools at our disposal when it comes to balancing blood sugars, but with carb counting, glycemic index, glycemic load, foods with no added sugars, low sugar, and a dizzying number of other options, how do we know what to do for our patients, both with and without diabetes?
We may not know, but our clients do!
That’s right, our clients are the ones who provide the best information on how we can help each and every one of them.
According to a 2015 study, researchers found that a variety of factors, not just dietary habits, can affect how one’s blood sugar will be affected, including sleep, gut microbiome, blood parameters, physical activity, anthropometrics, and insulin sensitivity. Using these unique variables, a machine-learning algorithm can accurately predict personalized postprandial glycemic responses to real-life meals, which can vary quite a bit from one person to the next, despite having consumed identical meals.
That doesn’t mean that certain people can eat whatever they want and stay healthy. We know that foods void of any nutritional value and loaded with sugar shouldn’t be in grocery stores, let alone in our pantries (I’m looking at you, cakes and sodas!)
However, you can start with a strong understanding of general, science-based guidelines. Knowing when to use this knowledge helps us build a personalized plan, and encourages each client to better understand his/her own body, all while providing feedback as you continue to work together as a team to manage blood sugars.
Why is it so important to maintain balanced blood sugar?
Uncontrolled elevated blood glucose levels represent a widespread epidemic and a major risk factor for pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity (in children and adults), and metabolic syndrome, among others. An influx of sugar-laden products to grocery store shelves and restaurants contributes to the 20 teaspoons of sugar the average American now consumes in a day, a number that only continues to grow. Overall, blood sugar management is a growing problem and a growing area of study.
There is no one-size-fit-all approach, but there are several things we can use to help get clients on the right path toward balancing their blood sugar.
In the end, the one-size-fits-all approach fails because no two people are exactly alike. Take the time to study habits and work with your clients and other healthcare professionals to create personalized nutrition plans. This can help you and your clients adopt healthier habits that work for each and every unique body!