Two health conditions that go hand-in-hand are type 2 diabetes and obesity. On both fronts, the glycemic index (GI) comes into play. Let’s look at how you can use GI ratings for foods to your benefit in these areas.
1. GI and Diabetes
Many studies have shown that high-GI foods increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. One large one involving nearly 43,000 healthy men found that a diet of high GI and low-fiber foods did just this. Another study, of more than 65,173 healthy women, confirmed that having a high-GI diet and a low fiber intake increases diabetes risk. This one suggests that diabetes could be reduced in the U.S. if people ate more whole grains.
A large study of 14 previous studies with 356 diabetic patients clearly showed that the low-GI diet improved both the short- and long-term control of blood sugar in diabetics. This one showed that a low-GI diet could work just as well or better than diabetes medications.
There isn’t much doubt that, to reduce your risk of diabetes, or help treat the condition, eating more low-GI foods can work. Other studies have found that these foods could lower cholesterol and reduce other risk factors for heart disease in people who have diabetes.
2. GI and Obesity
A typical Western diet is high in carbs and high-GI foods, with potatoes, breads and low-fat cereals. These are digested and absorbed quickly, putting intense demand on insulin. Low-GI foods control weight better by making you feel full and burning through more fat. They do this by being digested and absorbed slowly, causing a slower rise in glucose and insulin in the blood.
It’s been claimed that a 50% increase in the GI of a meal (e.g. from 50 to 75) will lead to a 50% decrease in the sense of feeling full. In a big trial, researchers showed that 16 out of 17 studies confirmed that low-GI diets increase make you feel fuller. Better and larger studies are still needed to see if a low-GI diet could help prevent and treat obesity.