A recent study confirms the growing body of evidence that lemons have beneficial anti-diabetic properties.
In a randomized trial, lemon juice – but not tea – reduced the glycemic response in volunteer subjects. The healthy subjects were part of a study by French researchers, published in the European Journal of Nutrition volume 60, pages 113–122 (2021). The study references 50 other clinical research studies in its bibliography.
What is the glycemic response – and why is it important?
Despite its relatively common use nowadays when talking about nutrition, the term glycemic response has no formal definition.
- Blood glucose levels change after you consume foods that contain carbohydrates;
- The available carbs are those that the body digests and absorbs;
- The Glycemic Index or GI measures the extent of those changes.
To complicate matters, recent research suggests that our glycemic response varies quite significantly from individual to individual.
- Each test subject’s glycemic response was measured every two hours and plotted on a graph;
- It showed that each individual responded differently to each different type of food;
- The way they responded did not correlate with the way other participants responded;
- Results varied by up to 5-fold.
When the body can’t manage insulin well enough to maintain blood glucose levels, it is most often associated with diabetes. Hyperglycemia can damage many organs and systems in the body, including the blood vessels and nerves.
The researchers theorized that pairing a starchy food with a drink containing the kind of enzymes that inhibit the digestion of starches might be a strategy that was easy to put into play.
For that purpose, the researchers tested black tea and lemon juice. The volunteers consumed bread along with water, tea or lemon juice, and measured their responses.
What they found:
- Tea did not affect the glycemic response at all;
- Lemon juice had the effect of significantly lowering the peak blood glucose concentration, and delayed that peak by more than 35 minutes.
Previous research indicated that lowering the pH of a meal overall (i.e. including all its components) can slow down the digestion of starches. Lemon juice, in the recent study, showed similar properties to vinegar and other acidic foods.
Eating something acidic along with something starchy seems to be the simplest way of reducing your glycemic response – and avoid overtaxing your body’s insulin response.