By helping to maintain lower blood sugar and insulin levels, a low glycemic index diet may be useful in preventing and treating a variety of the health problems. Here are some examples of how eating low on the glycemic index can help promote excellent health:
Substituting low-GI carbohydrates (like thick-cut oats and legumes) for high-GI carbohydrates (like processed cereals, white bread, and potatoes) can help lower blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. This is why the GI has been an integral part of medical nutrition therapy for diabetes in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe for many years.
A low-GI diet may also help prevent diabetes from ever developing in the first place. Harvard University researchers who tracked the eating habits of over 100,000 men and women found that those whose diets were low in fiber and high in refined and high-GI carbohydrates were more than twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes, than people who ate a fiber-rich diet with a low glycemic load.
Insulin is a cellular growth factor. Many studies have shown an association between high insulin levels and a variety of cancers including breast, colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic. Other studies have shown links between diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, glycemic load, and cancer. This suggests that lifestyle changes, like maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, and eating a healthy low-GI diet may help protect against cancer at least partly by lowering insulin levels.
As with Type 2 diabetes, researchers have found that a diet high in refined and high-GI carbohydrates may substantially raise the risk of heart disease. These foods increase blood insulin levels, which in turn contribute to a higher blood pressure, higher levels of blood fats (triglycerides), lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and an increased tendency for dangerous clots to form and linger in the blood.
People who have meal-related reactive hypoglycemia secrete too much insulin after eating. This causes the cells to remove so much sugar from the blood that they feel weak, shaky, irritable, headachy, unable to concentrate and very hungry with a few hours of eating. Choosing low-GI carbohydrates can help prevent this type of hypoglycemia because eating foods that promote a gradual rise in blood sugar and a lower insulin response reduces the likelihood that blood sugar levels will drop too low.
Since low-GI foods are slowly digested, they provide a gradual and sustained rise in blood sugar. This keeps you feeling full and satisfied and delays the return of hunger between meals. Conversely, high-GI carbohydrates provide short bursts of energy that satisfy you in the short term but soon leave you hungry. Many of the fat-free and low-fat foods that have become popular over the last decade, such as bagels, processed cereals, rice cakes, crackers, snack chips and cookies, tend to rank high on the glycemic index and may actually contribute to a pattern of overeating in some people.*These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration