I feel like all I hear about lately are glucose levels, especially with people asking me about the Glucose Goddess hacks.
Like a lot of wellness influencers with no nutrition qualifications, Jessie Inchauspé, the self-proclaimed ‘Glucose Goddess,’ has seen opportunity in the health, wellness, and nutrition space.
Who is the Glucose Goddess?
Inchauspé is a biochemist with a large following on Instagram, a personal ‘sickness to health’ story (about her glucose, naturally), and some theories about glucose spikes. Predictably, this all adds up to a big book deal: her book Glucose Revolution was just released a couple of months ago.
Now, everyone is talking about the Glucose Goddess hacks, such as deconstructing sandwiches to eat the vegetables first so our blood sugars won’t spike.
While I do love the idea of helping people keep their glucose levels stable and at appropriate levels, there’s something about telling people to micromanage their bodily functions. I mean, we’ve been eating food in whatever order we want since forever. I can assure you that this is not the reason for all the illness in the world.
We’re getting so obsessed with ‘hacking’ our lives and our bodies in the name of health, at what point does this outlook actually become less healthy for us?
I wanted to do a Glucose Goddess review to take a closer look at whether her hacks and recommendations are helpful.
It’s important to note that while Inchauspé gives research citations to back up her claims, a lot of what she recommends is anecdotal. She does admit that her methods were developed by using herself as her own research subject.
Basically, her whole book is predicated on the theory that if we prevent glucose spikes, we can avoid some major health issues, including diabetes.
Inchauspé also suggests that eating according to her hacks may put your fatty liver and type-2 diabetes into remission, reduce PCOS symptoms, and improve mental, heart, and gut health.
She has said that her hacks can ‘reverse PCOS,’ which is impossible.
And in a very recent IG Live with Mark Hyman, she tells people that glucose spikes cause glycation, which ‘cooks us from the inside, and then we die.’
WHAT. THE. HELL. This is gross, irresponsible fearmongering…and it’s also fully wrong. But the way she says this makes it sound science-y, and judging by the comments on the post, people believe what she’s saying.
Here’s the thing.
The above conditions and diseases are not the result of transient glucose spikes, especially in healthy people. No, you don’t need a CGM to monitor your glucose. Yes, you may improve these things if you do what some of the Glucose Goddess hacks tell you to do: eat fewer ultra-processed foods, balance your meals, eat more protein. Eat more vegetables. Eat lots of fiber, and eat less sugar. and increase your vegetable intake.
It’s not rocket science, it’s stuff that I’ve been telling you all for decades.
As far as people saying they’re losing weight on the Glucose Goddess diet, following these easy guidelines might cause a calorie deficit, in particular if your diet beforehand wasn’t the greatest.
But to attribute the resolution of your mental health issues, PCOS, and fatty liver disease to fewer glucose spikes is reaching. As in, way too far. Maybe that’s why the citations for her PCOS claim are a cell study, an entire book (with no page number to reference), and a 2005 study on the keto diet.
None of these are convincing support for her assertions:
Interestingly, several of her citations on the Glucose Revolution Science page are duplicates. Maybe this wasn’t intentional (I’m thinking it wasn’t), but this gives the illusion of having more research on the topic than there is.
And I’m just going to go on a brief tangent to put this here, because it has to be said:
Inchauspé fangirls all over Mark Hyman, which I find problematic. Most evidence-based, legit practitioners do not agree with much of what Hyman writes or posts.
It’s interesting when this happens. I can like some of what a person puts out into the world, but when part of their messaging or affiliations seem to betray their lack of critical thinking skills and evidence-based knowledge about the very topic they’re trying to educate people about, it really sours their credibility. At least, it does for me.
Here’s a graphic about glucose spikes that Inchauspé recently posted:
I want to clear one thing up right now, because I’ve seen her make several references to ‘fructose levels’ and ‘fructose spikes’ in her content.
Fructose is not a metric, it’s an ingredient. We don’t measure fructose level with labs, or with CGMs. They are not a thing.
And the idea that when glucose spikes, our bodies ‘put on fat to protect us’ is bizarre. In fact, this entire graphic is over the top. None of these things are the result of transient glucose spikes in healthy non-diabetics (who, ironically, seem to be a large part of her target audience).
Glucose levels rise after we eat carbohydrates. Insulin is secreted to take the glucose into our cells, and in people with normal glucose metabolism, glucose levels will then go back down.
Should you eat a ton of sugar and starch and refined and ultra processed foods? Of course not! But scaring people that something bad is going to happen to them if they eat a ‘naked’ pear for a snack is not okay.
It’s completely normal to have a rise in glucose after eating.When glucose levels go up quickly (otherwise known as a ‘spike’), they can drop precipitously, leaving us tired and hungry.
(Read my post about Diet for PCOS here)
Interestingly, recent research on blood sugar in PLOS suggests that there are variations in glucose regulation in people who aren’t diabetic. This means that even if they aren’t diabetic, some people’s glucose spikes higher than others, often into the pre-diabetic range. While it’s great to eat in a way that ensures a slow rate of absorption of glucose into the blood, the messaging around glucose spikes in healthy people being harmful seems alarmist and not evidence-based.
Elaine Clark, RD, CDE, tells me that these sorts of short-term spikes aren’t too concerning in people who have overall normal glucose levels. ‘Overall, if their A1C is fine, it’s not a problem. Why does the occasional glucose spike matter, if your overall A1C is in target?’
You can get your A1C and fasting glucose checked with a simple blood test, and you should be getting it checked yearly anyhow, if you aren’t diabetic. Diabetics may need more regular A1C checks.
Despite the above graphic insinuating differently, sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, and neither do small glucose spikes.
There have been no studies proving causation between short-term glucose spikes and hormonal disruptions, chronic inflammation, accelerated aging, and disease. I asked Karl Nadolsky D.O. and endocrinologist, what his thoughts were about the Glucose Goddess’s hacks and the concept of non-diabetics micromanaging their glucose. He told me this:
I don’t know of any data to suggest that somehow keeping glycemic excursions dramatically below 140 mg/dL is beneficial w/o the other components of dysglycemic disease. So, basically, they are extrapolating inappropriately as far as I’m concerned.
This pear graphic is the same sort of thing. OF COURSE you’re going to have a higher glucose level when you eat a piece of fruit without a source of protein or fat. But nothing bad is going to happen to you because of it.
Let’s take a look at the Glucose Goddess 7 hacks.
Eat food in the proper order.
That ‘proper order’ is: fiber, protein, fat, then starches and sugars.
Inchauspé says that when we eat vegetables first at meals, the fiber in the vegetables forms a ‘mesh’ in the stomach and intestine, which helps to prevent the rapid absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
In my 23 years of practice, I’ve never heard of fiber making any sort of ‘mesh,’ but yes – if you eat vegetables and protein before you eat carbs, you may experience a smaller rise in blood sugar. Is that smaller rise in blood sugar relevant to the general population?
Maybe not, but if this way of eating gets you to consume more vegetables overall, that’s a good thing. And as Clark told me, ‘it’s a way to eat less overall – get people to eat their vegetables first, and they’ll eat fewer calories from other things.’
She also said to me, ‘can’t we just eat a fu*king sandwich and get over it, already?’
(Do hormone balancing diets work? I break down the science here)
My issue with this hack is that taking their sandwich apart and picking through their meals to eat the ‘right’ macronutrient at the ‘right’ time may be triggering for people with a history or a predisposition to eating disorders.
Sure, eat some salad or some protein before you eat your carbs. But at what point do we draw the line? Does eating your sandwiches intact have that much of a negative impact on our physical health that we should never eat one whole again?
Do these things really make that much of a difference, especially in people who don’t have diabetes?
This is the question I ask myself, and that you should be asking yourself too, while I read about Glucose Goddess’s tips.
The research that Inchauspé gives on her Glucose Revolution Science page to back up this claim are very small studies that been done only in diabetics (one exception was done in 8 non-diabetics).
Along with those citations, The Goddess has a lot of graphics on her feed that show the effects of eating vegetables before other food. Too bad that
The verdict: eating your food in a particular order may have some positive effects on your blood sugar, but it probably doesn’t matter for most people.
Don’t eat carbs on their own.
Pairing carbs with protein and/or fat is something that dietitians have been recommending forever. This isn’t a new idea, but it is an effective one for satiety and blood sugar levels, especially in diabetics.
When combined with protein and/or fat, the glucose from a carb food is absorbed more slowly and evenly into the bloodstream. Protein and fat also help to delay digestion, which means you’re fuller for longer.
This one checks out, but it’s important to remember: if you eat a piece of fruit by itself, nothing bad is going to happen to you.
Eat a savory breakfast…and savory snacks.
We’re going to knock off two hacks in one here.
What Inchauspé means by this is, avoid breakfast pastries and other carb-heavy foods in favor of protein-rich choices. Don’t eat sugary stuff for snacks – choose something with protein and fat, like almonds.
Breakfast foods are typically carbs – think, pancakes, waffles, toast, breakfast cereal.
I always recommend protein-rich breakfasts and snacks, which can sustain both fullness and energy longer than a carb-based meal or snack.
This 2017 study, although fairly small, suggested that eating a high protein breakfast may help with blood glucose levels at the subjects’ subsequent meal.
Protein consumption causes the release of peptide YY, a hormone that helps to increase satiety and regulate appetite.
I’m with The Goddess on this one.
Drink vinegar in water before meals.
For all of the influencers and wellness people and now Glucose Goddess who have recommended vinegar before meals for whatever reason, the research is still not there to justify it.
Elaine Clark, RD, CDE, told me, “Adding any acid – even lemon or lime juice – to a meal can help lower its glycemic index, but I’d never tell someone to drink vinegar.”
You can’t drink vinegar and erase the carbs you’ve eaten, like a lot of content creators will suggest. Inchauspé recommends 1 tablespoon of vinegar in water before meals, in order to prevent glucose spikes.
She presents us with a couple of research studies to back up this recommendation. It’s always important to look at the research, like in this first study she cites for this hack.
Post-meal glucose was not measured in this study, so how do we know that vinegar actually helps with spikes? In fact, at the end of the 12 week study and after 5 weeks follow-up, HbA1C and FPG were not remarkable.
As far as the study saying that subjects lost a ‘significant amount of weight’ during the intervention, this translated into 1-2 kg for the vinegar groups, which was basically reversed after the study ended.
The vast majority of the studies she uses to back up her vinegar recommendation are small and done only in diabetic people. As I read through them, I see a lot of statistically significant outcomes which aren’t really clinically significant.
(Is apple cider vinegar worth taking? Read more here)
Meaning, the effect in real life isn’t so remarkable that it’s worth taking vinegar before you eat.
Many of the studies also use test meals that are full of processed carbs – juice, cereal bars, white bread, for example. Do you really eat that sort of breakfast? If you eat a diet that contains more fiber and protein, how do the results apply to you?
Oh wait! One of her citations answers that question: this study found that vinegar doesn’t appear to help glucose levels when taken with a low glycemic meal.
Inchauspé recently posted the following graphic on her Instagram. As a dietitian, I think it’s pretty obvious that when you take a meal that’s almost pure carbs and add eggs to it, it’s going to have a more favourable glucose response. The ACV is probably entirely unrelated to this. I want to see a graphic comparing the response of a meal of oats and eggs, to a meal of oats, eggs, and vinegar. My guess is that they won’t be significantly different.
These types of curve graphs, which are all over her social, look scientific, but are more like a representation of something scientific. I can see how they’d be compelling to the layperson, but I’d take them with a HUGE grain of salt, since they have basically no context whatsoever. This comes off to me as equal parts interesting and shady.
The lesson here? Add protein to your meals. Again, nothing new or revolutionary. Also, what were the amounts of oats in each side of the graphic? Do we eat less of the oats because we’ve eaten protein first?
The following graphic about what to do if you’ve eaten too many cookies is on the Glucose Goddess Instagram page:
The instruction to drink vinegar to prevent a spike isn’t warranted, says Clark. ‘I’d never recommend that, even to diabetics. Also, by the time you’ve eaten those cookies, the spike has already happened.’
Eating anything to ‘counter’ something else that you’ve eaten also sounds disordered, even though the graphic also includes non-diet sounding slides that tell us to ‘enjoy our food,’ and not to worry about overeating.
I’m feeling like Ichauspé knows some things about glucose levels, but it’s clear that she has not been educated to the point of being an expert in physiology, glucose, and diabetes. ‘Why did she write a book about avoiding blood sugar spikes for people who have normal glucose levels?’ Clark asked me.
I’m not sure.
The verdict: drinking vinegar probably won’t be useful if you eat varied, fiber-rich meals.
Add a plate of vegetables to all of your meals.
Nothing to say here, except that the more plants you eat, the better.
Out of all the Glucose Goddess hacks, this one is my fave.
Only eat fruit whole.
Inchauspé says that processing fruit by juicing it or drying it can impact its effect on your blood sugar.
She’s absolutely correct, of course: fruit juice is concentrated sugar and contains no fiber. Dried fruit has the exact same amount of sugar per piece than its fresh counterpart, but you probably eat more raisins than you would grapes, leading to more sugar consumed. This hack has some truth behind it, but these foods’ impact on your blood sugar will only be significant if you’re consuming them in large amounts and without other foods. For example, you’ll probably have a glucose spike if you have a handful of raisins. But, add some nuts to those raisins, and the effect will be less.
She posted a graphic that shows the example of an all-fruit smoothie versus a fruit smoothie with protein, which seems to counter her argument here. The fruit in the bottom smoothie is still blended.
This one is fine, but I’m still going to eat dried fruit – with a source of fat and protein.
Move after your meals.
Moving your body after meals, if possible, is a great idea. Clark agrees.
This hack is legit.
Glucose Goddess review, in short.
Some of what Inchauspé recommends is totally legit. One thing I do like about the Glucose Goddess, is that she doesn’t seem to be super-rigid with her suggestions. She seems to be all about telling people to follow her ‘hacks’ when it’s convenient for them, not making them into a diet or a strict list of rules.
That being said, some of her hacks and claims appear to be overblown and not supported by current research. And no, ‘research’ she has done on herself doesn’t count.Her credibility in my eyes takes a major hit every time she aligns herself with a quack doctor and/or makes ridiculous, fear mongering claims that aren’t scientific in the least.
I’ve found that some of what Inchauspé recommends are behaviours that have been encouraged by RDs like me, for decades. I guess when we do it, it’s way less sexy? Eh, probably.
Her stuff isn’t physically harmful, so try it if you want. But beware of lofty claims and fear tactics that aren’t supported by current evidence (but help to sell books).