IHN Database

Glycemic index in health and disease

TORONTO, CANADA. A team of researchers from Canada, France and Sweden presents an excellent overview of the current knowledge regarding the association between health and glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index is a measure of the speed at which a carbohydrate food releases its glucose content into the bloodstream. A more recently developed indicator, glycemic load, is a measure of the total glucose load associated with a standard serving of a carbohydrate food. Food with low GIs results in a slower absorption of glucose from the small intestine, which in turn reduces the postprandial rise in gut hormones and insulin. This effect is believed to be behind the many beneficial effects of a low GI diet. Two studies have shown that a low GI diet results in higher HDL cholesterol levels and may reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Another study showed that a low GI diet reduces heart attack risk. Several studies have found an inverse relationship between GI and the development of diabetes, colon, breast and prostate cancers. Low GI diets may reduce oxidative stress by minimizing the depression of vitamin E and lycopene levels caused by the postprandial rise in glucose levels. The researchers conclude that GI control may have an important role to play in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

Two American researchers disagree with this conclusion and believe it is premature to recommend that the general population avoid foods with a high glycemic index.
Jenkins, David J.A., et al. Glycemic index: overview of implications in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76 (suppl), July 2002, pp. 266S-73S
Pi-Sunyer, F. Xavier. Glycemic index and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76 (suppl), July 2002, pp. 290S-98S

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