Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rice Syrup and Blood Glucose Response

I have been pondering lately on what constitutes a "low carb" diet and have just finished reading Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet (here is an overview of the diet). They suggest a low carb diet of 50 to 150 grams of carbs per day, with a bias towards more rather than fewer carbs (or, as they say in the book, 200 to 600 calories from carbohydrates). They recommend getting carb calories from safe starches, such as rice, taro, yams, and tapioca. This is substantially higher than most other low carb experts, but their book was compelling (I will review it at another time).

In the book, they say eating natural sweeteners are okay, especially if they come from the "safe starches" mentioned above. Specifically, they talk about rice syrup. So I bought some certified organic brown rice syrup from Now Healthy Foods. On the label, we read:

Unlike simple sugars, such as monosaccharides and disaccharides, Brown Rice Syrup is a polysaccharide, or a complex sugar. The unique structure of complex sugars allows them to be absorbed and broken down more slowly than simple sugars, avoiding rapid spikes in blood glucose. Slower absorption also allows the body to utilize complex sugars for energy instead of having to store them as fat for later use.

Based on this label and the Jaminets' claim that it is okay to use, since it is from a safe starch, I decided to do an N=1 test and see how my blood sugars reacted to it. I made some ice cream (one cup of cream, one cup of half and half, six egg yolks, one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of rice syrup). A serving size is one half cup and has about 220 calories and 11 grams of carbs, mostly from the brown rice syrup (it was delicious, by the way). To make this an even stronger test, I ate 3/4 cup of the ice cream, for 330 calories and 17 grams of carbs (my total carb count for the day is about 50, including the ice cream).

I ate the ice cream about two hours after dinner, and my blood sugar was 106 just before I ate the ice cream. Full disclosure: I am a type II diabetic and take Metformin. This probably had an impact on the test. Nevertheless, my results were very interesting. I ate the ice cream then tested my blood sugar at 15-minute intervals to see the blood glucose response. Here are the raw data:

8:20 p.m.          106
8:35 p.m.          109
8:50 p.m.          125
9:05 p.m.          137
9:20 p.m.          142
9:35 p.m.          130
9:50 p.m.          133
10:05 p.m.        116
10:20 p.m.        108

And here is a graph:

The blood glucose response was actually very normal for me. One hour after eating, the reading was 142 and two hours after eating, it was back down to 108. According to Jenny Ruhl, one hour after eating it should optimally be 140 or below and two hours after eating it should be 120 or below. But she also says the critical threshold to avoid organ damage is to have the reading be at least 140 or below two hours after eating. When I eat low carb (50 to 75 grams of carbs per day), my blood sugar is almost always 140 or below after one hour and 120 or below after two hours.

So for me, this is convincing evidence that, indeed, brown rice syrup is a safe sweetener. Not to be used in excess, but not problematic, either. I may have to strongly consider following this Perfect Health Diet .


  1. Have you tried stevia? It is a natural sweetener.

  2. Yes, but what kind of stevia? I have seen many varieties. I have a liquid stevia concentrate that I use. Do you have a recommendation for a Stevia formulation?

  3. I've tried several brands of liquid Stevia.. I like it in my tea, however it was horrible tasting in my coffee, and in a pineapple/cream cheese/whipped cream dessert. I use cream in my coffee, not in my tea, so maybe it doesn't compliment 'creamy' things?
    I have grown Stevia. I dehydrated the leaves and will be using a bit of that in my marinara sauce to see if it works well (to lessen the acidic taste).

  4. Your test was very useful to me, and any others w type II D.
    I have only had one doctor, out of MANY , so far explain this the way you did. He was also type II Diabetic.
    Everyone with this condition needs to read this very valuable and simple explanation that you offer for testing the effects of food on blood glucose levels. Thank you so much.