Body’s Insulin Response to Certain Foods is Focus of Study

Leonard H. Epstein, PhD

Published October 26, 2021

Researchers at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are launching a study aimed at finding out the relationship between the foods people eat and their body’s insulin resistance.

The goal of the study is to understand what might be different about how individuals at risk for Type 2 diabetes experience and respond to certain foods — especially those with a high glycemic index — which cause blood glucose levels to spike more quickly than foods with a low glycemic index.

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Zeroing in on Reinforcing Value of Foods

The study is designed to determine whether the reinforcing value of foods — that is, the power of a particular food to motivate an individual to consume more of it — is related to insulin resistance status of individuals with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes and/or to the glycemic index of foods.

“In general, we know that foods that have a higher glycemic index — that is foods that produce a marked blood glucose response — tend to be more reinforcing, motivating people to consume more of them, which is why so many people have difficulty cutting them out,” says Mathew J. Biondolillo, PhD, study coordinator and a postdoctoral associate in the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory in the Department of Pediatrics.

“We are trying to understand if there are physiological differences that make avoiding those foods more difficult for people who have Type 2 diabetes or are at risk for developing it,” he adds.

Seek Those With Type 2 Diabetes, Prediabetes

The principal investigator on the study is Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine. Epstein is an internationally renowned obesity expert who has pioneered groundbreaking studies in the field of behavioral medicine and nutrition.

Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, the study is now recruiting individuals 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, a condition where a patient’s blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic.