New research has found that drinking green tea may help reduce the spike in blood sugar that occurs when we eat high starch foods. The compound, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), was found to be effective in reducing blood glucose levels in animal models.

When we eat starchy foods like white bread or potatoes, the breakdown of carbohydrates into simple sugars is so quick and efficient that it causes a spike in our blood sugar level. In response to this, our pancreas secretes insulin, but excessive consumption of sugar and starch puts enormous strain on this organ. Over time, this process can result in a decrease in our body's ability to break down sugar, which can lead to type-2 diabetes.

Furthermore, when our blood sugar spikes, the crash that follows often leads to an increase in appetite that makes us want to eat more. When we choose more starchy foods, the cycle continues and more calories are consumed. This, of course, can lead to obesity.

Consequently, it is of great interest to nutrition experts to find a way to either help people lower their intake of starchy foods, or at least reduce the effects of that consumption. In the study in question, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, researchers looked at whether EGCG might have some beneficial effect.

What they discovered was that when mice were fed EGCG along with corn starch, the resulting blood sugar level was significantly lower than when the animals were fed corn starch alone, in some cases by as much as 50%. The diet was meant to simulate a typical human breakfast of bread or a bagel. The amount of EGCG given was the equivalent of one and a half cups of green tea and was most effective when given simultaneously with food.

Interestingly, the compound did not have a beneficial effect when the animals were fed straight sugar in the form of glucose or maltose. The researchers believe this may be related to how the body processes starch versus sugar, specifically in regards to alpha-amylase, an enzyme produced in the mouth and pancreas. Alpha-amylase helps the body digest starch into maltose and glucose, so some experts hypothesize that EGCG may affect this enzyme. With this in mind, adding sugar to green tea may actually negate any beneficial effects of the tea.

Diabetes and obesity are both significant problems throughout the world, especially with the popularity of processed foods, which are laden with starch, sugar, fat, and salt. The situation is made worse by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Health experts encourage people to get plenty of exercise, eat a wholesome diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reduce consumption of meat, starch, and sugar.

If you have questions or concerns about diabetes, speak with your doctor and visit the website for Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To learn more about good nutrition, visit the website for Nutrition.gov.