In brief

Chewing patterns and saliva properties observed in individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes reveal a correlation between saliva uptake in chewed food and blood sugar spikes, potentially informing tailored dietary advice for better glucose management.

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Mindful eating curbs blood sugar spikes

28 Feb 2024

Research reveals that the way we chew can affect our blood sugar levels, offering improved strategies for managing blood sugar in people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

That first, relished bite of food when hunger strikes is invariably the most satisfying. Now, new research is showing that oral processing behaviours—specifically how food is chewed and how long it stays in the mouth before swallowing—may affect blood glucose levels after eating.

Ai Ting Goh, a Senior Research Officer at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovations (SIFBI), said that this early stage of digestion has been largely overlooked in metabolic health research.

Goh delineated various research-backed strategies for managing blood glucose levels in individuals susceptible to type 2 diabetes (T2D): “These include adding functional ingredients to carbohydrates, co-ingesting carbohydrates with macronutrients or manipulating the order of food during meal consumption.”

There might also be metabolic benefits from changing one’s chewing habits, Goh added, which would allow people with pre-diabetes to better manage their metabolism while still enjoying their favourite foods.

To test the theory, Goh teamed up with researchers from the National University of Singapore; Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands; George Washington University, USA; and Curtin University, Australia. In a trailblazing study, 26 participants with pre-diabetes were assessed both at home and in a tightly controlled laboratory setting to ascertain how their oral processing behaviours and salivary properties correlated with daily glucose readings.

“Matching the same people’s response in the lab and in their natural environment offers new opportunities to predict day-to-day fluctuations in glucose trajectories based on objective laboratory-based measures,” Goh asserted.

The cohort was monitored via video during a test meal of eggs and rice. Samples of the chewed food, or bolus, were collected for analysis. Subsequently, the cohort spent a week wearing a continuous glucose monitoring device to track their blood glucose fluctuations. Participants also logged any kind of dietary intake in an app during the observation period.

The study revealed that an increase in saliva mixing with food during chewing often results in elevated surges in blood sugar levels. “This early glucose release is important as it stimulates early insulin release and can have a positive effect on maintaining euglycemia, or normal glucose levels,” said Goh.

These insights suggest a significant shift in the optimal practices for managing metabolic conditions, making it not only about restricting carbohydrates and sugary foods to maintain glucose levels within a healthy range.

“[Our] ongoing research initiatives are looking closely at the impact of processed food structure on energy intake, the relationship between food texture, eating rate and satiety, and the potential link between the bolus properties and the microbiome,” Goh concluded.

The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovations (SIFBI).

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Goh, A.T., Yao, J., Chua, X.H., Whitton, C., van Dam, R.M., et al. Associations between oral processing, saliva, and bolus properties on daily glucose excursions amongst people at risk of type-2 diabetes. Food and Function14 (4), 2260-2269 (2023). | article

About the Researcher

Ai Ting Goh is a Senior Research Officer at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) and Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC). She graduated with a BSc (Honours) in Food and Human Nutrition from Newcastle University. Her research focuses on how sensory properties and environmental cues influence eating behaviour and energy intake in adults and children.

This article was made for A*STAR Research by Wildtype Media Group