is the glycemic index a good indicator?

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Consuming low glycemic index foods alone does not appear to lead to weight loss.
  • This diet is good for the prevention of cancers, because it involves a greater consumption of fiber.
  • This kind of diet is indeed healthy, but not enough to eliminate all health problems.

Sugar is often cited as the cause of many health problems, leading to obesity, diabetes, cancer and even cardiovascular disease. In response, diets aimed at reducing sugar intake have emerged. Among them, we find the use of the glycemic index, which aims to measure the effect of food on the level of sugar in the blood, therefore blood sugar. It then makes it possible to orient the regimes. But, as reported The Conversationthe scientific literature is more divided as to its actual effect.

Conflicting studies

The concept of the glycemic index was introduced in the 1980s by two nutritional scientists, David Jenkins and Tom Wolever. It allows you to know the ability of foods to impact blood sugar within 2 hours of ingestion. To provide references and produce an indicator that is as close to reality as possible, the notion of glycemic load has been added, which takes into account the carbohydrate content of foods. This prevents foods with a high glycemic index but low carbohydrate content from being considered foods to avoid, although they actually have little effect on blood sugar levels – unless they are consumed in excess.

Many studies have looked at this index to measure its impact on weight loss. In 2012, research published in Nutrition Diary reported that it could lead to 3 to 4 kilograms greater weight loss compared to a diet aimed at reducing energy intake, portion size or fat. Two other studies, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2011 and in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014, showed that the diet based on the glycemic index led to a reduction in abdominal fat in diabetic patients.

Aside from these studies and a few others, most research has found no association between glycemic index and body mass index (BMI). It can be noted that a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 concluded that there was no link between glycemic index and weight loss. A 2014 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that this index could not limit the risk of type 2 diabetes, while another published in the same journal in 2014 could not determine whether the index was associated with lower cardiovascular risks.

If all these studies seem contradictory, it turns out that it is impossible to say with certainty that the diet based on the glycemic index can lead to weight loss. This can be explained by the fact that it would eliminate neither the feeling of hunger nor that of satiety, concluded a study published in the journal Nutrients in September 2018. Foods with a low glycemic index cause a lesser response, when it comes to insulin, which regulates our blood sugar, while the level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, remains the same.

Relevant against cancers

Concerning type 2 diabetes, studies, such as the one published in 2007 on the JAMA Network, demonstrated a positive association between foods with a low glycemic index and a reduced risk of developing the disease. As a 2008 study concluded in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionit would actually be the result of a low glycemic diet, high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, which would prove to be the most effective.

When it comes to cardiovascular health, a diet of low-glycemic foods doesn’t seem to have a noticeable effect, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Nutrients. Regarding cancers, a 2015 study published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control, concluded that people who consume products with a high glycemic index have a slightly greater risk, especially for colorectal cancer. This is mainly due to the presence of fibers. As a result, the consumption of products with a low glycemic index would be quite protective, especially against digestive cancers.

Healthy eating habits

In conclusion, even if the data do not necessarily point in the same direction, adopting a diet with a low glycemic index seems to be good for your health. It may not be enough to stay healthy, but it can be worth considering. This leads in particular to consuming more fiber and reducing the share of foods rich in carbohydrates.

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