When French biochemist Jessie Inchauspé was working at a health tech startup in Silicon Valley after college, she was interested in having a glucose meter fitted to her body. A tiny needle was stuck through the skin on her upper arm, and a sensor was attached to it that transmitted her blood sugar level in real time. In this way, she obtained detailed data on the effects of which food on her blood sugar level.
Inchauspé says our body talks to us, you just have to listen properly. With the way we eat, we prevent ourselves from waking up fit and well rested in the morning. What's more, chronic diseases of the cardiovascular system or arthritis could also be related.
WORLD: Ms. Inchauspé, you say you have a solution for many problems such as migraines, pimples, fatigue or low mood. What is this solution?
Jessie Inchauspé: My concept is based on the fact that most people have severe glucose spikes every day without even knowing it. Most of the foods we eat cause blood sugar to rise sharply and then drop again. These ups and downs are linked to many symptoms and diseases - from acne to wrinkles and diabetes to food cravings and infertility.
WORLD: What exactly happens when we have a glucose spike?
Inchauspé: These glucose spikes damage our cells. Every glucose spike puts them under stress, which leads to inflammation in the body. Over time, the cells can also no longer generate energy as efficiently. In addition, the aging process is accelerated with every glucose spike, both internally and externally. Free radicals and the inflammatory processes can lead to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. And finally, with every glucose spike, we trigger insulin to be released in our body.
WORLD: What consequences can this have?
Inchauspé: Over time, too much insulin leads to conditions like type 2 diabetes, fertility problems, and more. Symptoms of glucose spikes are individual, some people feel shaky, a little dizzy, not particularly well. Others may experience migraines. For some people, like me, glucose spikes can trigger mental problems. I believe all of these symptoms are the body's trying to tell us that a glucose spike is occurring and it's not good for us.
WORLD: What mental or psychological problems can glucose spikes cause?
Inchauspé: These are fairly new findings. The more glucose spikes someone has from their diet, the more likely they are to have depression or anxiety disorders. I became personally interested in blood sugar levels because I found that the glucose spikes coincided with mental health issues I was having when I was 19. When I started measuring my blood sugar steadily, it was a big discovery for me. I thought, "Wow, the spikes in blood sugar occur at the same time I'm having these feelings." And I've noticed that avoiding the spikes improves my mental health.
WORLD: What else happens when you have a lot of glucose peaks?
Inchauspé: The most noticeable thing is that you feel tired. You feel like you don't have much energy for activities throughout the day. Also, you get hungry every two hours. And a third common symptom is cravings for sugary things, cravings. In the long term, glucose spikes lead to skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and eczema, as well as insomnia or weight gain, depending on the type. Over time, high blood sugar levels can also increase your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's.
WORLD: You say there is a simple solution for all of this. You have to pay attention to the order in which you eat.
Inchauspé: We know from studies that we can reduce glucose spikes by up to 75 percent if we eat foods in a certain order. Namely, eat the vegetables first, then proteins and fats, and finally starches and sugars. If you are faced with a classic dish of potatoes, roulade and mixed vegetables, start with the vegetables, then eat the meat and end with the potatoes. You'll find that your body will feel lighter, you'll have more energy, and you'll feel less cravings throughout the day.
WORLD: People report on Instagram that they lose weight if they eat in this order. A woman says she lost six kilos in four months.
Inchauspé: Avoiding glucose spikes is first and foremost for your health, it's not a diet. But when we avoid glucose spikes, we reduce cravings, we feel better. We have more energy. Very often this leads to weight loss. I would say that around 75 percent of the people in my community find themselves losing weight.
WORLD: Let's get specific. So every meal should start with vegetables, for example a salad?
Inchauspé: Yes, every meal starts with vegetables, it can be any type of vegetable: a salad, raw tomatoes or leftover broccoli from the night before. This works because vegetables contain fiber. When you eat the veggies first, the fiber gets into your gut, where it forms a protective web. And this protective net helps the body not absorb too much glucose from the rest of the meal. This is what I call the number one life hack.
WORLD: Many people don't like it, they get stomach ache from raw vegetables, such as peppers.
Inchauspé: You don't have to eat it raw, I prefer cooked vegetables too. It can be pre-cooked and stored in the fridge. Or grill or steam the vegetables.
WORLD: Whoever eats the vegetables first prevents the cravings that often come later in the afternoon or evening?
Inchauspé: Yes, it's a very powerful tool. Starting your meals with vegetables reduces the glucose spike throughout the meal. And by doing so, you also reduce the drop in glucose afterwards when your blood sugar drops. We know that this drop in blood sugar activates cravings in our brain. You will find that your body has fewer cravings for sweet foods.
WORLD: What does a good breakfast look like?
Inchauspé: The simplest thing to remember is: nothing sweet for breakfast. Instead of toast with jam, you could have toast with cheese, fish or eggs. When you're more hungry, eggs are great. Sausages are good, as is anything that's high in protein, hearty, and will help keep you fueled throughout the rest of the day. If you don't want to do without the jam toast, you should eat a slice of toast with cheese or sausage beforehand. Because what you really should avoid is eating something sweet on an empty stomach.
WORLD: Many now drink their coffee with oat milk. But you don't think much of oat milk?
Inchauspé: Oats are a grain, oat milk is made from oat grains. Oatmeal contains a lot of glucose. Compared to other dairy products like cow's milk, oat milk creates a large glucose spike in most people. Oat milk is therefore not good for the body. It is better to drink cow's milk or even almond milk. One should not drink oat milk on an empty stomach, especially in the morning.
WORLD: Nutrition tips for lunch are often complicated. Is there an easier way, for example for people who want to quickly prepare something in their home office?
Inchauspé: Make yourself a sandwich: some bread, cheese and ham. Maybe a few more tomatoes. As long as a meal isn't all carbohydrates, you're helping your body. What you should avoid is just pasta or bread. One should always make sure to add protein, fat and fiber. Anytime you eat something starchy, like potatoes or something made from grains, it's even better to eat something that doesn't contain any starch at all. You can make a salad with a few pieces of vegetables, some cheese and a vinegar dressing.
WORLD: What could you eat for dinner?
Inchauspé: For dinner, when you have a little more time to cook, start with a vegetable appetizer. Choose your favorite vegetables and prepare a large portion of them at the weekend. I roast large batches of vegetables on Sundays and keep them in the fridge. Every night before dinner, I have a few bites of broccoli with some tahini sauce or parmesan for an appetizer, and then eat whatever you want. The great thing about this concept is that you don't have to stick to a specific menu. You really can eat whatever you want as long as you remember to eat the veggies first and not just the carbs.
WORLD: When I watch TV in the evening, I often get hungry. Then what would you recommend?
Inchauspé: The best thing to eat is something that isn't sweet. Anything you like. When the stomach is empty, it is much better to eat some protein, vegetables, maybe some bread with cheese.
WORLD: But you have more tricks, also for when you want to eat something sweet?
Inchauspé: Yes, a very effective trick is to drink some vinegar afterwards. Simply add a spoonful of apple cider vinegar to a large glass of water and drink before eating. The vinegar reduces the glucose surge triggered by the sweet food by around 30 percent. The second trick: coat the sweet. By that I mean if you want to eat a chocolate cake, add protein, fat or fiber, for example by eating a yoghurt with it. And the third trick is to move your muscles for ten minutes after eating something sweet. Maybe you can do some squats in front of the TV, lift some weights, or dance a little. The main thing is that the muscles are activated so that they can absorb the glucose that has entered your blood.
WORLD: I tried it, vinegar water doesn't taste very good.
Inchauspé: Start with just a few drops in a large glass of water. You will feel better. Vinegar is also good for digestion. Otherwise, the other two tricks are just as good. Vinegar lowers glucose spikes, and it helps your body burn more fat. In some cases, he could even reverse diabetes. He is very effective.
WORLD: Some people have the feeling that they suddenly have low blood sugar levels, they get dizzy.
Inchauspé: That comes from the rollercoaster of blood sugar levels. As a result, at some point the body has what is called low metabolic flexibility, and you feel like you have to eat something every two hours. If you keep glucose levels flat, these effects go away.
WORLD: Another problem: Sometimes you have the feeling that you can think or concentrate better with a little sugar.
Inchauspé: That's because sugar releases dopamine in the brain, which in turn makes us feel good and a little more awake. I totally understand. And when I work late, I want to eat chocolate too, because it makes me happy and makes me feel better. But we also know that by doing so, over time, we impair our body's ability to produce energy.
WORLD: Why is that?
Inchauspé: It's a kind of vicious circle, because the more we train our bodies to depend on sugar for energy, the less able our bodies are to produce energy. If you need a little boost of energy for your brain, eat something sweet, but it's best to eat something else, maybe some almonds or nuts, maybe an egg, so that you reduce the blood sugar spike.
WORLD: Dopamine is like a drug that we have become accustomed to?
Inchauspé: We have a system in our body that rewards us when we eat sweet foods. Because earlier, in prehistoric times, sweet food meant it was safe. Now every time we eat something sweet, our body says, "Oh well done, eat more of that." The problem is that the food industry is taking advantage of that and making very, very sweet foods. If something used to be sweet, it was a piece of fruit, it also contained a lot of fiber and water. You can't eat a lot of it.
WORLD: And today?
Inchauspé: Today we have candy bars, which are the equivalent of ten pieces of fruit in a tiny piece of food, minus the fiber, minus the water. And so the food industry exploits the dopamine mechanism to make money. If you are addicted to candy, you can try switching from candy to fruit. Take apple slices with some yoghurt and retrain your body, so to speak.
WORLD: When it comes to honey, many think that as a natural product it is better than sugar.
Inchauspe: No, no. Honey has much more fructose than regular table sugar. Fructose leads to more inflammation and makes us age faster. We find fructose in high amounts in Coca-Cola and orange juice, but this sugar is also found in dried fruit, soda pop, and sweet fruit.
WORLD: Fructose is converted into fat faster by the body than glucose.
Inchauspe: That is correct. And one of the most common fats that fructose makes is triglycerides, a leading cause of heart problems and heart disease.
WORLD: What is actually better for blood sugar levels: eating throughout the day or not eating for a long time during the day?
Inchauspé: It's better to eat three full meals a day than three meals plus snacks in between. And we know that for sure. And if you're someone who skips breakfast and only eats two meals a day, that's okay too. Importantly, the first meal of the day, whenever that's for you, shouldn't be sweet.
WORLD: What is the best thing to drink, apart from always just water?
Inchauspé: If it's warm, I'd drink sparkling water with a few ice cubes, maybe a bit of lemon, maybe a bit of vinegar if you like vinegar like me. Anything along those lines is great. It is important to note that fruit juices are not good for the body. Fruit juices are just the sugars of the fruit that have been extracted. It's really important to treat them like a dessert. We need to stop thinking that fruit juice is healthy.
WORLD: The nutritionist Sarah Keogh says that with a normal blood sugar level, the body can compensate for blood sugar spikes well, you don’t have to pay attention to that. Health problems like the ones you describe could also be due to a lack of nutrients, such as vitamin B.
Inchauspé: Of course, glucose isn't everything. We also need to consider things like nutritional deficiencies, stress, sleep, exercise, and other aspects. But saying you don't have to worry about the spikes if you don't have diabetes isn't true. We now know that even for most non-diabetics, ordinary foods can bring blood sugar levels into a very unhealthy range. This is a relatively new finding. For a long time we thought that if you're not diabetic, you don't need to worry about your blood sugar levels. But that's not true.
Jessie Inchauspé, "The Glucose Trick: How to Escape the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster", Heyne (e-book 10 euros*; paperback 13 euros*)
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