However, a deeper look into both the funding behind the study and the real impact of cereal on blood sugar raises a number of questions.
â€œMetabolic diseases are on the rise globally,â€ explained H. Douglas Goff, PhD, a professor in food sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in statement on the study.
Goff led the team from the universityâ€™s Human Nutraceutical Research Unit.
Their study focused on the effects of a breakfast containing â€œhigh-proteinâ€ milk with cereal compared to a breakfast containing normal cowâ€™s milk.
The high-protein milk product contained additional whey protein powder in an effort to reduce blood glucose levels during the hours following the meal.
Whey is derived directly from cowâ€™s milk. Itâ€™s often used as the base for the most affordable protein powders in the fitness industry.
Goff and his team concluded that the additional protein in the milk successfully kept blood glucose levels in a healthier range. It was reportedly more satiating, too.
â€œThere is an impetus to develop dietary strategies for the risk reduction and management of obesity and diabetes to empower consumers to improve their personal health,â€ said Goff.
Dairy industry connection
However, experts contacted by ishonest said the suggestion that a breakfast of high-protein milk with cereal is actually beneficial to someoneâ€™s blood glucose levels is dangerous, manipulative, and blatantly disingenuous.
â€œThis is harmful advice,â€ Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN, told ishonest. â€œThese research and public relations efforts around this data are an injustice to the uninformed consumer who is trying to improve their diabetes by learning from public information and research.â€
Schmidt added that when she merely read the headline of this study, it was clear to her that the research was funded by the dairy industry.
The Journal of Dairy Science is owned by the American Dairy Science Association (ASDA) â€” an international organization comprising educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are self-described as â€œproviding educational and scientific activities for the betterment of the dairy industry.â€
â€œThis research is motivated by trying to increase dairy and cereal sales, and is confusing to someone who is innocently trying to follow recommendations to improve their diabetes,â€ says Schmidt.
In an email to ishonest, the ASDA defended its publication, saying it is â€œnot owned or controlled by the dairy industry.â€
Cereal not a good choice
Eating cereal for breakfast, whether it contains high-protein milk or not, is known well in the diabetes patient community as a food that makes it difficult to control blood glucose levels after itâ€™s digested.
Even a bowl of whole steel oats containing approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates will spike blood sugar, albeit less so than a bowl of highly processed Cheerios.
Cereal of all kinds consists largely of carbohydrates, and this substance raises blood sugar levels â€” including even the healthiest sources, such as fresh fruit.
The larger majority of branded cereals (including seemingly â€œhealthyâ€ versions like Kashi and Raisin Bran) contain a high amount of highly processed carbohydrates and added sugar.
Both are digested rapidly and thus spike blood sugar levels rapidly.
At this yearâ€™s 78th Annual American Diabetes Associationâ€™s Scientific Sessions, Jeannie Tay, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birminghamâ€™s Department of Nutrition Sciences, reported recent research supporting the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
A bowl of most boxed cereals will easily add up to 50 grams of carbohydrates plus the additional 13 grams of carbohydrates from 8 ounces of cowâ€™s milk.
That produces a total of 63 grams of carbohydrate before youâ€™ve even left for work in the morning.
Avoid the carbohydrates
Schmidt, who lives with type 1 diabetes and is a holistic nutrition coach for diabetes patients across the globe, says reducing carbohydrate consumption is what has the biggest effect on blood sugar levels and weight loss.
For that first meal of the day, she actually recommends eliminating carbohydrates entirely.
â€œMy advice is to eat whole, real foods that are high in protein and fat, like avocado, eggs, flax, nuts, seeds, and humanely sourced animal protein,â€ says Schmidt.
She also recommends eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables throughout the day, and she guides patients to limit their overall dairy intake, especially whey protein.
â€œWhile most dairy products are relatively low in carbohydrates, dairy is actually high in leucine â€” an amino acid that is the most insulinogenic or â€˜insulin-demandingâ€™ of all the amino acids, because it absorbs into the bloodstream very quickly,â€ explained Schmidt.
â€œWhey is great for someone post-workout when we are most insulin sensitive, but not for someone who has blood sugar variability,â€ she noted.
Schmidt adds that itâ€™s no surprise that the added whey in the studyâ€™s milk reduced participantsâ€™ appetites. Protein has always maintained its reputation as the most satiating macronutrient.
â€œHealth professionals should be prioritizing and advising that people with diabetes focus on eating more whole food sources of protein, not highly processed whey,â€ said Schmidt.
Also suspicious in the dairy industryâ€™s study is that the second study used to demonstrate the â€œhealth benefitsâ€ of high-protein dairy was pizza.
â€œWas this a health study or a planned study designed to simply promote dairy in all forms?â€ questioned Schmidt. â€œAre they really suggesting that eating manipulated dairy in the form of milk and pizza is going to improve the blood sugar levels of those struggling with type 2 diabetes and obesity?â€
Goff and his team concluded from the results of his high-protein dairy study that it confirmed the â€œimportance of milk at breakfast timeâ€ to reduce the rate of carbohydrate digestion and help to maintain lower blood sugar levels.
â€œNutritionists have always stressed the importance of a healthy breakfast,â€ added Goff, â€œand this study should encourage consumers to include milk.â€
In an email to ishonest, Goff defended his teamâ€™s research.
â€œOur study shows that the milk proteins present help to delay the absorption of glucose from starch hydrolysis, thus lowering blood glucose levels after consumption of the cereal compared to the cereal served with water. A high protein milk beverage delayed blood sugar absorption more so than normal milk. These affects are due to both delayed stomach emptying into the intestine (including starch from the cereal) when milk proteins are present in the stomach, and to the effects of the proteins on digestive hormones,â€ Goff wrote.
Nonetheless, Schmidt is still aghast at the studyâ€™s conclusions and the damage it could cause to the diabetes population.