Do you get cravings when you aren’t hungry? Are you finding it hard to lose weight? Do you have an energy crash at 11am or 3pm? We think of these things as normal. Despite eating ‘healthily’, I definitely didn’t know how to get off my own daily energy rollercoaster.

Biochemist Jessie Inchauspe has the answer. In her new book, Glucose Revolution, she explains the new science of why controlling glucose levels has a powerful effect on both our health and well-being.

Our bodies weren’t designed to eat the high-sugar, high-carb processed modern diet, Inchauspe says. Put simply, during digestion, all carbs turn to glucose, the body’s main fuel. Glucose triggers the release of insulin, which stores any excess as fat. And a big input of glucose – a spike – leads to an insulin spike. “Keep doing this day after day, and over time, you risk developing prediabetes, then diabetes,” as well as other insulin-related conditions such as poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Glucose spikes also provoke generalised inflammation in the body, the root of most of our diseases of ageing, plus diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer and Alzheimer’s. “Three out of five people will die of an inflammation-based disease,” Inchauspe says.

Not only does keeping glucose steady help reduce the risk of these conditions, it also irons out the symptoms mentioned above, such as cravings for sugar and energy slumps. Those who follow Inchauspe’s methods also report better sleep, hormone levels and skin. And of course the holy grail, healthy weight loss.

Glucose control is an emerging area of research: “Eighty per cent of the studies in my book came out in the past five years,” she says. Originally from France, she has a maths degree from King’s College London and a masters in biochemistry from Georgetown, Washington DC. Her skill set allowed her to turn the research papers into a series of “glucose hacks” to keep your levels in a healthy range.

The hacks are not a diet. You don’t change what you eat, only how. “Keto and low-carb diets rely on the same concept – they flatten glucose and insulin spikes – but with my hacks, you don’t have to cut out all sugars and starches. Nobody wants broccoli for their birthday.”

Cake and healthy weight loss? It’s no wonder that Inchauspe now has over 370,000 followers on Instagram. “When we focus on steadying glucose, weight loss happens naturally, without calorie counting,” Inchauspe says. “Studies show that people who focus on flattening their glucose spikes can eat more calories and lose more fat more easily than people who eat fewer calories but do not flatten their glucose spikes.” There are four key biological mechanisms underpinning this natural weight loss. You not only feel less hungry, but you have fewer cravings and you feel more satisfied. Glucose control reduces levels of insulin, the fat-storage hormone, too.

Inchauspe discovered the science behind glucose after taking part in a pilot trial of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) while working at a health company in Silicon Valley. These were invented for people with diabetes, to allow them to see their glucose levels responding to food in real time.

Jessie shows me her CGM, the FreeStyle Libre made by US company Abbott Laboratories. It’s a white disc on the back of her upper arm, around the size of a macaroon. Underneath, a tiny electrode inserted into fat reads the body’s glucose levels from the fluid between the tissues. In the UK, the FreeStyle Libre is a regulated medical device that’s only indicated for people with diabetes. Each monitor lasts two weeks and costs about pounds 50.

Inchauspe wasn’t diabetic or overweight when she began the pilot. But she did have trauma-related mental-health issues from breaking her back four years earlier, as well as bad skin, poor sleep and afternoon energy crashes.

She decided to use herself as a one-woman experiment, trying out ideas coming from the new research. “As I started playing with the hacks, I’d wake up feeling refreshed. My skin cleared up. I understood what I could do to affect my energy, my mood, my happiness. It was really transformative.” Inchauspe wrote a program to translate her findings into the graphs that she shares on Instagram. When she began three years ago, her fasting glucose, a standard measure of health, was 5.2mmols/l (5.5 is prediabetic, 7.0 is diabetic). Three years later, it’s down to 4.3mmols/l.

Perhaps we’ll all become more familiar with our blood glucose levels soon, just as we know our weight. The Zoe programme (joinzoe.com), whose co-founder is Professor Tim Spector, is using blood glucose as one of its measurements in its new personalised eating plan. And it seems likely that CGMs will soon become a common sight on people’s arms. In the US, they were first adopted by biohackers for optimising athletic performance, and there are now a few apps that pair with them. Perhaps the biggest uptake will come when the monitors have no electrodes at all and live in our watch; Apple and Samsung are reportedly working on this.

Soon, British app MyLevels will be launched, synched with the FreeStyle Libre. It was founded by Laura Douglas, an AI engineer. You input what you eat, and an algorithm then scores each meal. “It’s for people who want to lose weight, but who’ve tried and failed with diets,” says Douglas. People in the testing group have lost up to 22lb over two months. ‘But the biggest difference we’ve seen between this and dieting is that people keep the weight off,” she says. It’s £150 for a two-week programme (mylevels.com).

I wore a CGM for a week to test out Inchauspe’s hacks. The day I ate fruit for breakfast, my levels went up and down all day and my cravings were intense. The next day, I ate a savoury breakfast of avocado, then bacon, then a piece of toast (the order matters, see below). It worked: my blood glucose stayed level all day.

There were a few shocks. I’d thought my hot chocolate, made with coconut milk, was a good alternative to eating chocolate. But it made my glucose levels spike as much as half a bar of Green & Black’s.

Seeing what’s going on inside you is undeniably powerful. When you eat something that causes a blood-sugar spike, see the graph of your blood sugar rise on the app, then feel the slump and cravings two hours later, it really joins up your head with what’s going on in your body. And it felt liberating, finally to find a way to dampen down the sugar cravings that have plagued me for years, without having to give up carbs.

“Everybody should try a CGM, if they can,” Inchauspe says. “But you don’t need to buy one.” Because she has done the hard work for you. If you follow the scientifically proven hacks in the Glucose Revolution, you can flatten your glucose spikes.

Seven ways to flatten your glucose spikes:

1. Eat foods in the right order

Eat the veggies on your plate first, then protein and fat. And last, any starches and sugars, including fruit and pudding (luckily). A study from Cornell University showed that if you eat in this specific order, you reduce your glucose spike by 73 per cent.

The fibre in vegetables slows both the breakdown of the glucose in your food and gastric emptying. It also creates a viscous barrier in the small intestine that makes it harder for glucose to get into the bloodstream.

2. Add a green starter

Begin with a salad or any vegetable-based starter, raw or cooked. Jessie suggests: two cups of spinach, five jarred artichoke hearts, vinegar and olive oil. Or sliced carrot with hummus, sliced cucumber with guacamole, sliced tomato with one or two slices of mozzarella.

“In a restaurant, if my party is ordering starters, I order a salad. If we aren’t ordering starters, I ask for a vegetable-based side with my main (such as a simple green salad with olive oil and vinegar, steamed green beans or saute?d spinach), and I eat it before the rest of my dish. I wait until after eating my veggies to eat my main or touch the bread.”

3. Eat a savoury breakfast

A study from Stanford University in California showed that when non-diabetics were given a breakfast of cornflakes, it sent their blood glucose to levels that looked prediabetic, some even diabetic.

“A breakfast that creates a big glucose spike will make us hungry again sooner. What’s more, that breakfast will deregulate our glucose levels for the rest of the day, so our lunch and dinner will also create big spikes,” says Inchauspe.

Your best breakfast is a savoury one: f
ibre from vegetables or salad as well as protein, such as cheese, smoked fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, nut butter or Greek yoghurt, and optional carbs or fruit (eaten last). “If you’re buying breakfast at a coffee shop, get avocado on toast, an egg muffin, or a chicken and cheese sandwich.”

4. Watch your snacking

We have been told it’s better to eat little and often. But when it comes to glucose levels, it’s better to eat larger, more filling meals instead of smaller ones, then snacking in between. Every time you have a snack, your insulin goes up. “When our body is not in the postprandial state, our insulin levels come down and we can go back to burning fat instead of stashing it,” says Inchauspe. If you want something sweet, do it at the end of a meal, when it’ll cause a smaller glucose spike.

And if you do snack, make it savoury. Good ideas: a spoonful of nut butter; a cup of 5 per cent Greek yoghurt with nut butter; a handful of baby carrots and a spoonful of hummus; a hunk of cheese; apple slices with cheese or nut butter; a hard-boiled egg with a dash of hot sauce; a soft-boiled egg with salt and pepper; lightly salted coconut slivers; seeded crackers with a slice of cheese; a slice of beef ham.

5. Vinegar before you eat

Put a tablespoon of vinegar in a tall glass of water, and drink 20 minutes before to 20 minutes after eating. You can use any vinegar but apple cider is the most palatable. If you don’t like the taste, start with a teaspoon and work up, or put vinegar in the dressing of your green salad or vegetable starter.

By doing that, “cravings are curbed, hunger is tamed and more fat is burnt”. The acetic acid in vinegar slows down the release of glucose into the blood and speeds the uptake of glucose in the muscles. In a study of dieters eating the same restricted calories for 12 weeks, the vinegar group lost 11lb while the others lost only 5lb.

6. Put some clothes on your carbs

This hack is for real-life eating when you haven’t got time to plan or don’t have much choice. “It’s for those times when we’re going to eat a slice of cake for breakfast because we’re hungry and it’s there.”

The solution is, “Instead of letting carbs run around naked, put some ‘clothes’ on them,” says Inchauspe, ie combine them with fat, protein or fibre. “Clothes on our carbs reduce how much and how quickly glucose is absorbed by our bodies. Have the brownie at your friend’s place, but ask for Greek yoghurt with it, too. Have the bagel at the business meeting, but choose the one with smoked salmon in it. Buy a take-out lunch, but add ingredients from the nearest food shop to it: cherry tomatoes and some nuts.”

7. After you eat, move

Move within an hour after a meal and your muscles use up the glucose that’s just been released into the bloodstream, flattening any potential spike. Studies have shown this with a 10- to 20-minute walk, weights and strength training, but any exercise is likely to be good. “I’ve found that I have to do about 30 squats to see any change to my glucose level,” says Inchauspe.

The Daily Telegraph

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