This is a question of one of patients. Sweet potato consumption has been promoted by some for management of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
It’s an interesting suggestion and practice but does this management really work? I wanted to know more and decided to search for evidence and facts.
First, let me tell you more about this category of potatoes. Sweet potato is a plant originating from tropical and subtropical zones. It’s a very nutritious vegetable and popular in cooking.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture one medium sweet potato (114 g) has 4 g of dietary fiber, 13 g of sugar (total carbohydrate of 24 g), 2g of protein and 40 mg of sodium. It has also a variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A (high level) and vitamin C, calcium and iron.
The benefits of sweet potato has lower glycemic index and higher level of antioxidants such as vitamin A and C.
What is glycemic index?
You may wonder what exactly a glycemic index is.
The glycemic index provides information about how the consumption of a specific food affects blood glucose and insulin level.
To determine a glycemic index of a specific food, the researchers compare the level of glucose elevation after consumption of this specific food to the elevation of glucose after the consumption of pure sugar or white bread.
The researchers determined the glycemic index of pure sugar as 100.
Their measurement showed a glycemic index of an average sweet potato to be 70 and an average baked russet potato 111, which means that the blood glucose response to the carbohydrate in a sweet potato is 70% and in a baked russet potato is 111% of the blood glucose response to the same amount of carbohydrate in pure sugar.
Less favorable higher glycemic index results in much faster blood glucose increase than the consumption of low glycemic index foods.
The experts question the relevance of the glycemic index especially because of its wide variation for different group of foods.
For instance, the value of any specific food can change based on way it was processed, chewed, emptied from the stomach and the individual’s metabolic responses.
However, we can’t entirely disregard this index.
Diabetes, sweet potato and the facts
What about research and facts?
Do we have enough data that supports the benefit of sweet potato consumption in type 2 diabetes mellitus?
Looking at the literature, it was not possible to find any high quality study confirming the benefits of sweet potatoes in managing diabetes mellitus.
Same investigator performed three randomized trials looking at total of 140 patients. These studies have shown a significant improvement of glycosylated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) at three to five months with 4 g/day sweet potato preparation compared to other patients who did not consume any tablets. These studies were small, performed by the same investigator and used loosely regulated preparations. Therefore, the results of these studies are not conclusive.
Available research data doesn’t support the consumption of sweet potatoes in management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, a measured consumption of this sort of potatoes can be valuable. Introducing variety into food intake is important.
Therefore, consuming only one sort of potato and eliminating other ones can be unwise.
Consuming sweet potatoes as well as russet potatoes could benefit your body, understandably as long as you can avoid frying and using too much salt in their preparation.