In simple terms, GI measures how much your blood sugar level increases in a span of 2 - 3 hours after having food.
The scoring is between 0 to 100 with glucose being the reference food with a GI value fixed at 100. It is a new system of classifying carbohydrate containing foods, according to how quickly they raise blood glucose levels in the body.
The term ‘GLYCEMIC INDEX’ (GI)
was first invented by David Jenkins & Thomas Wolever at St. Michael hospital in Toronto, Canada in 1981. Since then, it has been a subject of debate. More recently, an effort to expand GI has been made by Jennie Brand-miller & her associates in Sydney, Australia.
To better comprehend GI index, we need to understand that all carbohydrates, from starches to plain sugar (commonly called as “Table sugar”), share a basic biological property i.e. they can be digested and converted to glucose in our body. The common misconception among the general public is that by avoiding ‘plain sugar’ they can avoid diabetes and take care of their ‘sugar’ level in the blood. I do not eat any ‘Mitha’ (‘Mitha’ means sugar in Hindi); is a common reply from the patients when they are asked to avoid sugar.
When a doctor or dietician refers to ‘sugar’ in the food, they mean Carbohydrates and the patient understands it as table sugar.
GI is possibly one of the scientific ways of looking at carbohydrate- rich food and finding out which item when consumed is likely to increase the level of glucose in the blood.
Carbohydrates with high GI causes a rapid increase of blood sugar, whereas diet based on low GI are low in sugar but high in fiber. They cause a slow rise of blood sugar and are, therefore, ideally suited for diabetic patients.Here’s a quick overview of what’s high and what low In GI is
|Low GI||55 or less ||Most fruits and vegetables (except potatoes, watermelon), grainy bread, brown rice, fish, egg |
|Medium GI||56-69||Whole wheat products, basmati rice, sweet potato, table sugar, white rices|
|High GI||70 or more||Flakes, rice krispies, baked potatoes, white bread, straight glucose (100)|
Importance of Glycemic index
has an obligatory requirement for glucose depending on metabolic demands
of our body. It is usually around 200gms/day. Our brain completely
depends on glucose and oxygen.
constant blood glucose level is important for our health and well being.
Both low or high levels can be dangerous, sometimes even fatal. If you
are feeling lethargic and hungry during the day after hard work , it is
most likely due to low blood glucose level.
- Blood sugar level below 40mg/dl (known
as ‘Hypoglycemia’ in medical terms) causes coma, stupor and even
- Blood sugar level more than 180mg/dl (known
as ‘Hyperglycemia’ in medical terms) causes long-term complication of
- Levels above 300 to 500 mgs/dl
can cause acidosis and also lead to a state of coma Excess glucose that
is stored is most often converted to fat. Food with high GI makes you
initially feel very energetic but as the fat increases, with time, it
makes you lethargic.
Research has shown that
maintaining blood sugar levels, from a state where the blood sugar
levels were fluctuating, does pay-off in the long run. The following are
Glycemic Load (GL) of Food –
risk of heart disease.
- Prevents Type 2 diabetes
(Genetically determined diabetes where the individual body is resistant
to insulin actions).
- Help to evade serious side
effects, if you have diabetes.
- Curbs appetite, so
you lose weight.
- Helps to feel more energetic and
this is important for a person’s well
While GI indicates the amount of glucose and the quality of
food, GL indicates the quantity of food and it is calculated as:
GL = GI x Amount of Carbohydrates in gms /
GL of 10 or below are considered low
whereas 20 or above are considered high. So if you love to eat food with
High GI then try and consume very little for the purpose of your
satiety, so that GL is kept less than 10.
Glycemic Index and Weight
GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI ) diet programs are highly successful
for weight loss and all diet plans for this are based on GI. For
sustaining weight loss the person should have some knowledge about the
foods that have high GI and avoid them. The common food includes
refined carbohydrates (white bread), sweets, puddings, desserts, cakes,
potato and rice to name a few.
of high GI diet not only increases the amount of food one eats but also
the high calories in the diet causes rapid gain in weight of a person. A
typical example is that of a hosteler who comes home for summer
holidays, only to go back invariably after gaining weight. This is
because of the pampering by parents and getting fed regularly with high
GI food. The Insulin Connection
A surge in glucose causes high secretions of insulin from
the islets of Langerhans in your pancreas. The insulin helps to push the
glucose inside the cell for its utilization. Constant insulin
production results in overworked islets and eventually over a period of
time results in diabetes. Keeping your glycemic load below 10 helps
avoid diabetes and keeps your weight under
of eating high GI food||Effects
of eating low GI
dysfunction||People tend to lose weight
production||Increase the body’s sensitivity to
|Increased free fatty
acid accumulation in body||Reduce blood cholesterol
|Raise the risk for
obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease||Reduce
the risk of heart disease, reduce hunger, refuel carbohydrate stores
Once you have understood
these basic concepts of GI plan out your diet sensibly. Speak to a
dietician, tell them what food you like and what you don’t and they
would help you with a diet plan for loosing weight. For diabetics, it is
essential to understand these concepts to control their 'sugar' or
rather glucose level in the blood.