Friday, May 8, 2009 | 6:44 am

Newer studies are revealing that the physiological responses to food (how food acts in the body) are far more complex than was previously appreciated. What is true is that different carbohydrate-containing foods do have different effects on blood sugar levels.

Only in recent years have scientists begun to study the actual blood sugar responses to hundreds of different foods in real people, healthy people and people with diabetes. They gave them real foods—not solutions of sugars and starches in water. They measured the blood sugar levels at frequent intervals, for as long as two to three hours after the meal. To compare foods according to their true physiological effect on blood sugar levels, they came up with the term ‘glycaemic index’.

The glycaemic index (or G.I. factor as we have called it) is a ranking of foods from 0 to 100 that tells us whether a food will raise blood sugar levels dramatically, moderately, or just a little.

This research has turned some widely held beliefs upside down.

The first surprise was that many starchy foods (bread, potatoes and many types of rice) are digested and absorbed very quickly, not slowly as had always been assumed.

Secondly, they found that moderate amounts of most sugary foods (confectionery, ice cream etc.) did not produce dramatic rises in blood sugar as had always been thought. The truth was that foods containing sugar actually showed quite low-to-moderate blood sugar responses, lower than foods like bread.

So, it is time to forget the old distinctions that were made between starchy foods and sugary foods or simple versus complex carbohydrate. These distinctions are based on chemical analysis of the food, which does not reflect the effects of these foods in the body. The G.I. factor takes us nearer to a full understanding of how the body responds to carbohydrate foods.

The G.I. factor is a ranking of foods based on their overall effects on blood sugar levels. Blood sugar or blood glucose? Blood sugar and blood glucose mean the same thing, although the latter is technically more correct However, we use the term blood sugar in this book because It is more widely understood. ‘Glycaemic’ refers to ‘blood sugar’.


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(posted in Diabetes)

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