Bedtime snacks are a bad idea for more than just your waistline.
They’ve recently been taken out of rotation for the majority of patient with diabetes at UC Health University Hospital, aided by research by graduate students in the College of Allied Health Sciences Department of Nutritional Sciences.
The student research, which focused on patients’ dietary needs, began last year under the guidance of Grace Falciglia, PhD, chair of the department, as a collaboration among the college, the hospital and the College of Medicine’s division of endocrinology and metabolism. It continues this year with the work of Jennifer Golan, a second-year master’s student.
Working with the hospital’s Diabetes Now team, a group of endocrinologists, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists and administrators, Golan will look at current practices of inpatient diabetes care and examine areas where diet is an influence.
"Specifically, there are three aims,” she says, "to look at the timing of insulin administration in relation to the meal, to study the amount of insulin administered in relation to the carbohydrate content consumed by the patient and, finally, to monitor snacks eaten by the patients and how those snacks affect their blood glucose levels.”
Nutritionists were already focusing on the last point, according to Linda Woods, clinical nutrition coordinator at the hospital.
"Traditionally, diabetic patients on insulin were given an evening snack to ensure their blood sugar didn’t drop overnight,” she says. "But in the last five to 10 years, we’re using different insulins, ones that don’t have the same effect on patients’ blood sugars.”
Woods said preliminary results from the student study showed that patients were getting additional carbohydrates with the evening snack, "maybe more than they really needed in the evening.”
"It was evidence to support taking out the later snack,” she says. "We were heading in that direction, but this was one more piece of evidence to support us.”
Golan hopes the changes result in better control of blood glucose levels for patients—and that her future work can help the hospital’s Diabetes Now team in its continued study of patient care. She regularly attends the team’s meetings as part of her research.
"It’s great to see everyone in action working together to meet patient needs,” says Golan. "It’s exciting to be a part of research that will impact patient care in a positive way—and I’m very lucky to work with both faculty and researchers.”