To Your Health
September, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 09)
Another Consideration - Glycemic Load
Glycemic load (GL) takes the GI into account, but rather than merely indicating how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar, GL also factors in how much of that carbohydrate exists in an average serving of food.
For example, while dates are at the upper end of the GI spectrum (103), they don't contain very much carbohydrate. Thus, the per-serving GL for dates is only 42. And while peanuts have one of the lowest GI values (14), they contain so little carbohydrate (peanuts are mostly protein and fat) that their GL per serving is only 1.
In general, foods with a GL above 20 are considered high-GL foods; a value of 11 to 19 is considered medium, and 10 or less is considered low. Foods with a low GL almost always have a low GI. However, foods with an intermediate to high GL may have a very low or very high GI, or somewhere in between.
Diabetes - Glucose Metabolism Gone Bad
According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 21 million U.S. adults and children suffer from diabetes, a disease characterized by inadequate glucose metabolism. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't secrete insulin at all. As a result, glucose has no way of getting into the body's cells to be used as energy, and blood sugar levels stay high. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can secrete insulin, but not enough to meet your body's needs. In both cases, glucose builds up in your bloodstream, rather than reaching the body's cells.
While normal blood glucose levels range between 60-120 mg/dl, levels generally are much higher in diabetics. A diabetic's fasting blood glucose level - the amount of blood glucose that remains in the bloodstream even after not eating for eight-plus hours) - is 126 mg/dl or higher, and their two-hour blood glucose level - the amount of glucose in the bloodstream two hours after consuming a carbohydrate-rich beverage - is 200 mg/dl or higher.
Because glucose stays in the bloodstream, rather than being made available to cells, diabetics can suffer a variety of health problems, including poor circulation and blood flow. Among the worst potential complications are nerve damage, blindness, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
What It All Means
All in all, the GI index is considered important for a number of reasons, particularly with respect to the benefits of consuming low-GI foods:
- Low-GI foods keep you fuller for longer.
- Low-GI foods cause a smaller rise in blood glucose levels following meals.
- Low-GI diets can help you lose weight.
- Low-GI diets can improve the body's sensitivity to insulin.