Effect of meal timing and glycaemic index on glucose control and insulin secretion in healthy volunteers

Br J Nutr. 2012 Oct;108(7):1286-91. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511006507. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


Shiftworkers have a higher risk of CHD and type 2 diabetes. They consume a large proportion of their daily energy and carbohydrate intake in the late evening or night-time, a factor which could be linked to their increase in disease risk. We compared the metabolic effects of varying both dietary glycaemic index (GI) and the time at which most daily energy intake was consumed. We hypothesised that glucose control would be optimal with a low-GI diet, consumed predominantly early in the day. A total of six healthy lean volunteers consumed isoenergetic meals on four occasions, comprising either high- or low-GI foods, with 60 % energy consumed predominantly early (breakfast) or late (supper). Interstitial glucose was measured continuously for 20 h. Insulin, TAG and non-esterified fatty acids were measured for 2 h following every meal. Highest glucose values were observed when large 5021 kJ (1200 kcal) high-GI suppers were consumed. Glucose levels were also significantly higher in predominantly late high- v. low-GI meals (P<0·01). Using an estimate of postprandial insulin sensitivity throughout the day, we demonstrate that this follows the same trend, with insulin sensitivity being significantly worse in high energy consumed in the evening meal pattern. Both meal timing and GI affected glucose tolerance and insulin secretion. Avoidance of large, high-GI meals in the evening may be particularly beneficial in improving postprandial glucose profiles and may play a role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes; however, longer-term studies are needed to confirm this.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Energy Intake
  • England
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / prevention & control*
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control*
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Postprandial Period
  • Time Factors
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Glucose