People who suffer blood sugar level dips feel hungrier and consume hundreds more calories a day, a new study has found.
The research has shed light on why some people find it hard to lose weight even when they follow a controlled diet and underlines the importance of individual metabolism when considering diet and health.
"Many people struggle to lose weight and keep it off, and just a few hundred extra calories every day can add up to several pounds of weight gain over a year," said Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, who led the study team. "Our discovery that the size of sugar dips after eating has such a big impact on hunger and appetite has great potential for helping people understand and control their weight and long-term health."
The research team collected data on a variety of health markers including blood sugar responses from 1,070 people after eating a standard breakfast based around a muffin and freely chosen meals over a two-week period. Participants wore glucose monitors to measure blood sugar levels throughout the study and underwent oral glucose tolerance tests to see how well their bodies process sugar. Sleep and activity levels were also measured, and participants were asked to record their food intake, along with levels of hunger and alertness on a phone app.
Some people were found to experience significant 'sugar dips' two-to-four hours after a meal, which is known as a blood sugar peak. At this point, blood sugar levels fell rapidly below baseline before coming back up. These 'big dippers' were found to eat their next meal around 30 minutes sooner, had a nine per cent increase in hunger and ate an extra 75 more calories in the three-to-four hours after breakfast. 'Big dippers' consumed around 312 more calories daily than 'little dippers', and experts warn this could equate to a 20-pound weight gain in a year.
"We've now shown that sugar dips are a better predictor of hunger and subsequent calorie intake than the initial blood sugar peak response after eating, changing how we think about the relationship between blood sugar levels and the food we eat," said Dr Sarah Berry from King's College London.
No link was found between age, weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) when it came to being a big or little dipper. There were also variations when people ate the same thing on different days, leading experts to believe individual differences in metabolism can affect your blood sugar levels, along with activity levels and meal choices.
The study, by a research team from King's College London and health science company ZOE, was published in Nature Metabolism.