Impact of Nutrient Type and Sequence on Glucose Tolerance: Physiological Insights and Therapeutic Implications

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019 Mar 8;10:144. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00144. eCollection 2019.


Pharmacological and dietary interventions targeting postprandial glycemia have proved effective in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes and its cardiovascular complications. Besides meal composition and size, the timing of macronutrient consumption during a meal has been recently recognized as a key regulator of postprandial glycemia. Emerging evidence suggests that premeal consumption of non-carbohydrate macronutrients (i.e., protein and fat "preloads") can markedly reduce postprandial glycemia by delaying gastric emptying, enhancing glucose-stimulated insulin release, and decreasing insulin clearance. The same improvement in glucose tolerance is achievable by optimal timing of carbohydrate ingestion during a meal (i.e., carbohydrate-last meal patterns), which minimizes the risk of body weight gain when compared with nutrient preloads. The magnitude of the glucose-lowering effect of preload-based nutritional strategies is greater in type 2 diabetes than healthy subjects, being comparable and additive to current glucose-lowering drugs, and appears sustained over time. This dietary approach has also shown promising results in pathological conditions characterized by postprandial hyperglycemia in which available pharmacological options are limited or not cost-effective, such as type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and impaired glucose tolerance. Therefore, preload-based nutritional strategies, either alone or in combination with pharmacological treatments, may offer a simple, effective, safe, and inexpensive tool for the prevention and management of postprandial hyperglycemia. Here, we survey these novel physiological insights and their therapeutic implications for patients with diabetes mellitus and altered glucose tolerance.

Keywords: food order; gastric emptying; glucose tolerance; insulin secretion; macronutrient preloads; medical nutrition therapy; postprandial glycemia; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review