Science & Tech

Glycemic Index of Diets: Importance Beyond Diabetes Control

  • Understanding and regulating the Glycemic Index (GI) in meals is critical for improving long-term health and lowering the risk of chronic illnesses.

What is the Glycemic Index?

  • Professor David Jenkins of the University of Toronto invented the Glycemic Index (GI) in 1981.
  • The GI of a food determines how rapidly it elevates blood glucose levels in comparison to a reference food, usually glucose or white bread, which is assigned a value of 100. 

GI Classification and Glycemic Load (GL):

  • Multiplying GI by the amount of carbohydrate consumed gives the Glycemic Load (GL).
  • Accordingly, foods are classified as:
  1. Low GI (below 55) foods include brown rice, steel-cut oats, legumes (such as lentils and chickpeas), most fruits (such as apples, berries, and oranges), vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Whole wheat goods, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, some rice varieties (such as basmati rice), and certain fruits, such as pineapple and mango, have a medium GI (56-69).
  3. Refined carbs and sugary foods with a high GI (70 or above) include white rice, white bread, refined flour products, potatoes, sweetened beverages (such as soda), sweets, cookies, and sugary snacks.

Debate and Perspectives:

  • The PURE research, conducted in 20 countries including India, found a relationship between high GI meals and cardiovascular events and death.
  • The evidence supports the link between high GI diets and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death.

Relevance for India

  • In South Asia, where diets are high in GI items such as white rice, attempts to minimise GI and GL are critical.
  • Lowering GI and GL can help prevent not just diabetes but also early cardiovascular disease, which is common in India.

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