Cutting Breakfast Carbs Can Benefit People With Type 2 Diabetes

An international team, led by UBC Okanagan researchers, suggests a simple tweak to the first meal of the day might help people living with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) better control their blood sugar levels.

Dr. Barbara Oliveira conducts research with Dr. Jonathan Little’s Exercise, Metabolism and Inflammation Lab in UBCO’s Faculty of Health and Social Development. Their latest study, published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms that switching from a traditional western-style low-fat breakfast, like oatmeal, toast and fruit, to a low-carb meal higher in protein and fat, like eggs with bacon or cheese, can help people with T2D better manage their blood sugar for most of the day.

In fact, changing just one meal helped keep the blood sugar in check.

“We’re not talking about a complete diet overhaul,” says Dr. Oliveira. “One of many complications for people living with T2D is rapid or large increases in blood glucose levels after a meal. Our research indicates a low-carbohydrate meal, first thing in the morning, seems to help control blood sugar throughout the day.”

Controlling glucose levels is critical for reducing the complications of T2D including inflammation and cardiovascular disease — the major cause of morbidity in patients with T2D.

Low-carb diets have become trendy in recent years and have been recognized as a dietary strategy to improve glucose control, Dr. Oliveira explains. However, similar to all diets, it’s tough to follow, especially long term. Instead of asking patients to commit to every meal being low-carb, she and Dr. Little examined the idea of making just the first meal of the day low-carb to see how that impacts diet adherence, and more importantly, blood glucose levels.

Dr. Oliveira notes while there were no significant differences between the low-carb and other group for weight, body mass index or waist circumference, the low-carb group did see a reduction in blood sugar levels and some were able to reduce their glucose-lowering medication. The upward and downward swings in blood glucose levels, known as glycemic variability, with the low-carb group was also significantly lower, suggesting the benefits of a low-carbohydrate breakfast for stabilizing blood sugars throughout the day.

One additional interesting finding was that people who had the low-carb breakfast self-reported lower calorie and carbohydrate intake at lunch and during the remainder of the day. This could suggest that a breakfast rich in fat and protein, while lower in carbs, can impact daily eating habits.


Barbara F. Oliveira, Courtney R. Chang, Kate Oetsch, Kaja Falkenhain, Kara Crampton, Matthew Stork, Malvinder Hoonjan, Thomas Elliott, Monique E. Francois, Jonathan P. Little. Impact of a Low-Carbohydrate Compared with Low-Fat Breakfast on Blood Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.04.032

University of British Columbia Okanagan campus. (2023, May 31). Cutting breakfast carbs can benefit people with Type 2 diabetes: Researchers say a low-carb start to the day may help control blood sugars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 1, 2023 from 

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