ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
When we dine out, often a basket of bread is the first thing that's put on the table, and often that bread is warm and delicious. But as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, succumbing to pre-dinner bread can spike our blood sugar and pile on the calories. So what's a bread-lover to do? Well, Allison says a new study suggests there's a compromise that may help.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: In many restaurants, bread is a way to keep hungry people happy as they wait for their meal.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, breadsticks.
AUBREY: But the downside of that bread basket may be more than just extra calories. All those carbs on an empty stomach can lead to a quick rise and fall in blood sugar that prompts some people to overeat. Louis Aronne, an obesity expert at Weill-Cornell Medical College who treats patients, says he knows just how hard it can be to get people to cut back on carbs.
LOUIS ARONNE: There are people who never feel full unless they have bread.
AUBREY: So he had an idea. Why not have people try eating bread at the end of their meal? He recruited a small group of participants, all of whom had elevated blood sugar.
ARONNE: What we looked at was the effect of the order of consuming bread.
AUBREY: On one day, they served up a meal of grilled chicken, steamed veggies and a salad. To start the meal, each participant was served a piece of bread.
ARONNE: A ciabatta roll from Au Bon Pain.
AUBREY: On another day, participants got the exact same meal, but this time the bread was served last.
ARONNE: And what we found was a striking difference in blood sugar and the insulin required to keep that blood sugar under control.
AUBREY: On average, the participants' peak blood sugar was about 30 percent lower when they ate the bread last.
ARONNE: That's a huge difference.
AUBREY: So were you surprised by this? It seems like it's a big effect from just a little change.
ARONNE: We believed strongly that the effect would be there, but we were surprised by the magnitude of the effect.
AUBREY: The significance of this finding for people with diabetes, Aronne says, is that they may need to take less insulin to keep blood sugar in check. And he says for all those dieters who've ever lost weight by giving up carbs only to gain it back when they allowed themselves to eat things like bread again...
ARONNE: It could be that this helps people to maintain their weight loss by helping them understand when they can eat carbs so that it won't rev up their appetite.
AUBREY: Aronne says this is just one small study, but more research is underway. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.