Using the Glycemic Index

Glycemic Index Explained

In the seventies, diabetes patients had little more than portion management as a tool for reigning in their glycemic response. Patients of the nineties were slightly more fortunate, having been given a list of sugars to avoid. Simple carbohydrates were the perceived evildoers of the diabetic community. Those with glucose control problems were to omit all things uncontrolled and delicious from their diets. This tactic was difficult to follow and non-compliance was the vice of all but the most disciplined of patients. Nevertheless, regimented eating plans that followed this strategy did not always result in positive consequences. Canadian professor, David Jenkins, challenged the idea that simple carbohydrates were to blame for rapid blood sugar spikes. The results of his trials revolutionized meal plan management for diabetic patients and put a few mouth-watering delicacies back onto their plates. Resultant testing led to the discovery of the glucose-controlling power tool, glycemic index, which flew in the faces of previous theories about carbohydrate effects.

Jenkins and his disciples discovered that simple and complex carbohydrates did not result in predictable and disparate blood glucose responses. Certain complex carbohydrates induced a quick BG spike that was far more potent than that produced by some simple carbohydrates. To reliably predict the BG response, scientists ranked carbohydrates according to their effects on blood sugar. Glycemic index ranks were given to foods in 50g portions according to the speed at which they pushed blood glucose up. The BG response over two hours determined the precise GI of the carbohydrate. Low GI foods such as pasta and peanut butter found their way back into diabetic meal plans while some foods with intermediate GI values were scratched from the list. This revolutionary discovery had yet to deliver its most powerful secrets.

Jenkins discovered power foods that could improve diabetes management purely through daily consumption of set portions, regardless of the rest of the diet. While simply adding a single low GI food to a poor diet is an inadequate plan for diabetics to follow, it does demonstrate the potency of certain well-ranked foods. More recent findings have transformed the discovery of the glycemic index into an intricate meal management tool.

Low GI foods such as legumes and kidney beans can be combined with high GI foods such as fruit and cereals to reduce glucose spikes. This method allows for a more diverse diet, increasing patient compliance as well as the nutritive value of meals. Following a GI diet is more complex than consulting a list of foods with corresponding numbers. There are external factors that influence the glycemic index of foods and precise control demands knowledge of these.

The ripeness of fruit and vegetables pushes GI up, as does processing. The straightforward act of overcooking pasta can turn that low rank into an intermediate one. There are also some food types with various GI ratings. There are a number of ranks within the rice family. Long grained white rice is preferable to brown rice and short grain rice is the guiltiest grain in the group. Potatoes are equally variable in terms of GI, with the potential to cause BG spikes across the spectrum depending on how they are prepared.

While the GI meal plan might put that low GI Snickers bar back onto your meal plan, it does not afford you absolute freedom with portion sizes. Blood glucose and weight management plans still need to include portion size management. Nutritional control remains imperative, as not all low GI foods are healthy.

Trials show that low GI diets generally have a potent effect on blood sugar management for patients with diabetes 2, but individuals have varying GI responses. Just as medication and insulin regimes are established according to the diabetic, nutritional changes need to be determined on an individual basis. The Healthcounter pharmacy doctors provide advice and follow up consultations to patients seeking the appropriate diabetes management plan for their unique needs.