The use of the glycemic index was developed at the University of Toronto to help patients with diabetes find a carbohydrate diet that was suitable for them. It is a measurement of carbohydrates in foods to see how quickly those carbohydrates are broken down. A high glycemic index food breaks carbohydrates down quickly while a low glycemic index food breaks it down slowly.
People who eat lower glycemic index foods digest and absorb the carbohydrates they eat much more slowly. If the index level is high, then this increased amount of glucose in the bloodstream requires large amounts of insulin. Therefore over the long-term, this high glucose level could lead to diabetes or high cholesterol levels.
To measure the glycemic index, a tested food is compared with a standard such as white bread. A set amount is given of the carbohydrate such as 50 grams. The standard food must have an equal amount of carbohydrate as the tested food.
Examples of high glycemic index foods are corn flakes, watermelon, baked potatoes, and white bread. The following are examples of medium-type glycemic index foods: basmati rice, sweet potatoes, and wheat bread. Low glycemic index foods consist of most fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, brown rice, meat, nuts, and cheeses.
Studies have reported that lower glycemic index foods can significantly provide long-term advantages to decreasing the development of diabetes and heart disease such as coronary heart disease. A high glycemic spike occurs after a meal with a high glycemic index. The sequelae to this is a high insulin level and an oxidative stress to the vasculature which causes injury to the blood vessels. Hence, diabetes and coronary artery disease can arise. A university study in Australia noted that these diseases as well as cancer could develop over time with a high glycemic index diet.
One other study done showed a correlation between obesity and a high glycemic index diet. This study used male rats which were divided into two groups where one ate a low glycemic index diet. The other had a high glycemic index diet, and both were studied for 20 weeks. The group which had the high glycemic index had results showing an increased body fat content as well as a decreased lean mass content. Their bloodwork showed significantly increased triglyceride levels and insulin levels postprandial.
The use of glycemic index can be a very useful guideline to use when evaluating diets. It would be very helpful for those with diabetes to maintain a proper glucose level. Also, people should follow it for a healthy all-purpose diet to prevent disease.
As seen, those who eat low glycemic index diets can prevent illnesses which affect many Americans per year. Complications from diabetes can be prevented such as loss of kidney function, vision loss, and possible foot or leg amputation. The risk of heart disease and be significantly reduced as well as other vascular diseases such as stroke or pulmonary embolism. Along with other diet modifications such as decreased fat intake and exercise, a person can benefit from a longer, healthier life.
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