Gastric emptying: When slower is better

When it comes to the Internet and Nascar, speed is good: The faster the better.

But when it comes to gastric emptying (the rate at which food passes from the stomach and into the duodenum and small intestine), slower can be better.

Slower transit time for foods passing through the stomach leads to lower blood sugar, lower blood glucose area under-the-curve (AUC), i.e., reduced blood glucose levels over time. Lower postprandial (after-eating) blood sugars can reduce cardiovascular risk. It can lead to a reduction in net calorie intake and weight loss.

Strategies that can slow gastric emptying include:

--Minimizing fluids during a meal--Drinking a lot of fluids, e.g., water, accelerates gastric emptying by approximately 20%.

--Cinnamon--While the full reason to explain Cassia cinnamon's blood glucose-reducing effect has not been completely worked out, part of the effect is likely to due slowed gastric emptying. Thus, a 1/4-2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day can reduce postprandial blood sugar peaks by 10-25 mg/dl.

--Vinegar--Two teaspoons of vinegar in its various forms slows gastric emptying. The effect is likely due to acetic acid, the compound shared by apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, and other varieties.

--Increased fat content--Fat is digested more slowly and slows gastric emptying time, compared to the rapid transit of carbohydrates.

Not everybody should slow gastric emptying. Diabetics with a condition called diabetic gastroparesis should not use these methods, as they can further slow the abnormal gastric emptying that develops as part of their disease, making a bad situation worse.

However, in the rest of us with normal gastric emptying time, a delay in gastric emptying can reduce blood sugar and induce satiety, effects that can work in your favor in reducing cardiovascular risk.

Comments (18) -

  • Anonymous

    2/21/2010 10:17:43 PM |

    What about fiber?  

    For what it's worth, I recently discovered Chia seeds, which are high in Omega-3 and fiber.  Mixed 15 grams with 8 oz water, and you get a gel that's easy to slurp down.  The taste is neutral, too.

  • Anonymous

    2/21/2010 11:21:09 PM |

    I wonder what kind of effect supplemental digestive enzymes what have in gastric emptying.

  • Dr. William Davis

    2/22/2010 12:46:00 AM |

    Hi, Ted--

    Great results! there are some data on fenugreek, but we have not used it in any systematic way. Perhaps we should give it a try,.

  • Seedeater

    2/22/2010 3:06:08 AM |

    Chia is a remarkable food.  3:1 n3 to n6 ratio, and absolutely complete protein, missing no amino acids.

    Check it out:

  • mongander

    2/22/2010 3:34:36 AM |

    "If eating one gram a day of cinnamon reduces blood glucose levels 20 percent, then three grams or six grams will reduce it a lot more. Wrong.

    Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including Dr. Richard A. Anderson, and Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan, gave these doses of cinnamon to volunteers. Some 60 volunteers divided into six groups participated. Three of these groups got the three different doses and three groups received a placebo.

    They found that less than one-teaspoon—one gram—of cinnamon worked as well as higher doses."

    C Leigh Broadhurst, PhD explains how to make a cinnamon water extract.

  • Anonymous

    2/22/2010 8:44:59 AM |

    Good thing too. Cassia is also high in toxins like coumarin.  I eat true cinnamon every day, I don't know if it works like Cassia, but it's so tasty it just must be doing some good!

  • 2 Quick

    2/22/2010 5:40:58 PM |

    Hi, Dr. Davis: I'm a long-time fan of your blog & LEF articles. I'm wondering if you can help. My husband (50 y.o., thin but muscular) is in extremely good health except for one thing: he is a very light sleeper (genetic, it seems). The insomnia is caused by his extremely fast transit time--exactly 12 hours, no more, no less--which means that if he eats more than one meal a day, it wakes him up in middle of the night. He doesn't drink during meals, he takes plenty of cinnamon, has taken apple cider vinegar (which, perversely, sped up his digestion), and because he is allergic to gluten, eats a high fat, high protein diet. He's tried adding fiber but that hasn't helped. (As you can imagine, his fast transit time leads to awkward social situations!) We're at wits end. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated!

  • DrStrange

    2/22/2010 8:30:15 PM |

    I have found that all of these work very well for some people and NONE of them works for everyone.  Some will great effect at lowering bg w/ some botanical while another person will have no effect whatsoever w/ same substance.

  • Anonymous

    2/24/2010 4:40:33 AM |

    2 quick - additional food intolerances?  has he tried a few weeks without fiber - counter-intuitive but could help.

  • 2 Quick

    2/24/2010 2:30:50 PM |

    Hi Anonymous,

    No, my husband does not suffer from any other food intolerance.

    That increase in fiber was a one-time, disastrous experiment. For the past several years my husband's diet has been free of fiber (except for the occasional bowl of berries and cream). This has helped his digestion tremendously but it has not slowed down his transit time...Frown

  • Dr. William Davis

    2/24/2010 6:40:30 PM |

    2 Quick--

    Sorry, but beyond wheat elimination, I have no specific insights.

    Occasionally, iodine deficiency will show up with odd gastrointestinal phenomena.

  • mongander

    2/24/2010 11:59:21 PM |

    You might try taking the probiotic, Culturelle, for a few weeks.  It causes your stools to bulk up.  It stopped a prolonged case of diarrhea for me. I know diarrhea is not your husband's problem but maybe Culturelle will normalize his digestion.

    Alternate day fasting might reset him.  I just started an alternate day fast.  Yesterday was my 1st day of fasting and it increased my transit time from 24 hr to 48 hr.  I know one day is too soon to make a judgment.

  • Anonymous

    2/25/2010 9:11:43 PM |

    What's the time frame arround meals in which luquids should be avoided? Does it include hot liquids like soup or tea and coffee?

  • Anonymous

    2/28/2010 8:14:24 PM |

    What a great resource!

  • Anonymous

    3/28/2010 7:17:29 PM |

    Smaller, more frequent meals is a better approach to limiting AUC and peaks. Slowing gastric emptying just invites acid reflux.

  • Anonymous

    6/1/2010 9:41:13 AM |

    Having trouble reconciling something on this topic:  Magnesium supplementation can supposedly be helpful in glucose control (as mentioned in past blog comments).  Yet my understanding is that it's mag's ability to *increase* the gastric emptying rate which causes the loose-stools side effects at high doses.

    I'm especially interested in any thoughts on this apparent contradiction because my pre-meal cinnamon supplementation seemed to lose its great benefit on postprandial glucose just about the time I triple my magnesium dose to 1200 mg (about 10 days ago).  Coincidence?

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 8:42:17 PM |

    Not everybody should slow gastric emptying. Diabetics with a condition called diabetic gastroparesis should not use these methods, as they can further slow the abnormal gastric emptying that develops as part of their disease, making a bad situation worse.