In my final look at how the glycemic index (GI) impacts you, I look at the two biggest killers in our world. Both claim about the equal number of lives each year. Heart disease and cancer are absolute scourges on society, and here is how you could protect yourself using the GI.
1. GI and Heart Disease
Several big studies have linked high-GI foods with heart disease. Harvard researchers tracked the diets of 75,500 healthy women for 10 years. They were aged 38 to 63. The high-GI foods from refined carbs (rather than whole grain carbs) raised the risk of coronary heart disease all by itself. This year, a Dutch study tracked 15,700 adult women for a decade and confirmed this link. High-GI foods are bad for the heart over the long term.
Here’s how these low-GI foods could lower your risk of heart disease:
Good evidence says that low-GI diets significantly reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels without changing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. In fact, three weeks on such a diet could lower total cholesterol by up to 30%, which is similar to what drugs can do.
Improve insulin sensitivity
High insulin levels are linked to coronary heart disease. In a UK study, 32 patients with this disease kept either a low- or high-GI diet. Those eating the low-GI foods had a much better ability to use insulin than those eating high-GI foods.
Dealing with blood clots
Blood clots can lead to heart attack, stroke, and serious problems in the lungs. High levels of glucose and insulin are linked to a higher risk of clots. In a study, three weeks on a low-GI diet lowered the levels of a chemical that is linked to clots by 54%.
2. GI and Cancer
The link between GI and cancer shows mixed results. In a Canadian study, researchers found that postmenopausal women on high-GI diets had a higher risk of breast cancer — especially those who didn’t exercise much. Yet another study found that premenopausal, and not postmenopausal, women had the greatest risk of breast cancer. Elsewhere, high-GI diets have been linked to a higher risk of colon cancer.
Though the evidence is mixed, the following remains true: a Western diet loaded with refined carbs and low in vegetables, fiber and fruit, plus a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and having diabetes or insulin resistance, could be linked to many types of cancer.