Graph describing blood sugar change after a meal.
The glycemic index (GI) (/ɡlaɪˈsiːmɪk/;) is a number from 0 to 100 assigned to a food, with pure glucose arbitrarily given the value of 100, which represents the relative rise in the blood glucose level two hours after consuming that food. The GI of a specific food depends primarily on the quantity and type of carbohydrate it contains; but also is affected by the type of carbohydrate, the amount of entrapment of the carbohydrate molecules within the food, the fat and protein content of the food, the amount of organic acids (or their salts) in the food, and whether it is cooked and if so how it is cooked. GI tables are available that list many types of foods with their GIs. A food is considered to have a low GI if it is 55 or less; high GI if 70 or more; and mid-range GI if 56 to 69.
The GI is useful for understanding how the body breaks down carbohydrates and takes into account only the available carbohydrate (total carbohydrate minus fiber) in a food. Glycemic index does not predict an individual’s glycemic response to a food, but can be used as a tool to assess the insulin response burden of a food, averaged across a studied population. Individual responses vary greatly.
The glycemic index is usually applied in the context of the quantity of the food and the amount of carbohydrate in the food that is actually consumed. A related measure, the glycemic load (GL), factors this in by multiplying the glycemic index of the food in question by the carbohydrate content of the actual serving.
A practical limitation of the glycemic index is that it does not measure insulin production due to rises in blood sugar. As a result, two foods could have the same glycemic index, but produce different amounts of insulin. Likewise, two foods could have the same glycemic load, but cause different insulin responses. Furthermore, both the glycemic index and glycemic load measurements are defined by the carbohydrate content of food. For example, when eating steak, which has no carbohydrate content but provides a high protein intake, up to 50% of that protein can be converted to glucose when there is little to no carbohydrate consumed with it. But because it contains no carbohydrate itself, steak cannot have a glycemic index. For some food comparisons, the “insulin index” may be more useful.
The glycemic index of a food is defined as the incremental area under the two-hour blood glucose response curve (AUC) following a 12-hour fast and ingestion of a food with a certain quantity of available carbohydrate (usually 50 g). The AUC of the test food is divided by the AUC of the standard (either glucose or white bread, giving two different definitions) and multiplied by 100. The average GI value is calculated from data collected in 10 human subjects. Both the standard and test food must contain an equal amount of available carbohydrate. The result gives a relative ranking for each tested food.
Foods with carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream tend to have a high GI; foods with carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, tend to have a low GI.
A lower glycemic index suggests slower rates of digestion and absorption of the foods’ carbohydrates and can also indicate greater extraction from the liver and periphery of the products of carbohydrate digestion.
The current validated methods use glucose as the reference food, giving it a glycemic index value of 100 by definition. This has the advantages of being universal and producing maximum GI values of approximately 100. White bread can also be used as a reference food, giving a different set of GI values (if white bread = 100, then glucose ≈ 140). For people whose staple carbohydrate source is white bread, this has the advantage of conveying directly whether replacement of the dietary staple with a different food would result in faster or slower blood glucose response. A disadvantage with this system is that the reference food is not well-defined, because there is no universal standard for the carbohydrate content of white bread.
Glycemic index charts often give only one value per food, but variations are possible due to
Ripeness – riper fruits contain more sugars, increasing GI
Cooking methods – the more cooked, or over cooked, a food, the more its cellular structure is broken, with a tendency for it to digest quickly and raise GI more
Processing -e.g., flour has a higher GI than the whole grain from which it is ground as grinding breaks the grain’s protective layers) and the length of storage. Potatoes are a notable example, ranging from moderate to very high GI even within the same variety.
More importantly, the glycemic response is different from one person to another, and also in the same person from day to day, depending on blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, and other factors.
The glycemic index only indicates the impact on glucose level two hours after eating the food. People with diabetes have elevated levels for four hours or longer after eating certain foods.
GI values can be interpreted intuitively as percentages on an absolute scale and are commonly interpreted as follows:
Group GI range Examples
Low 55 or less fructose; beans (black, pinto, kidney, lentil, peanut, chickpea); small seeds (sunflower, flax, pumpkin, poppy, sesame, hemp); walnuts, cashews, most whole intact grains (durum/spelt/kamut wheat, millet, oat, rye, rice, barley); most vegetables, most sweet fruits (peaches, strawberries, mangos); tagatose; mushrooms; chilis
Medium 56–69 white sugar or sucrose, not intact whole wheat or enriched wheat, pita bread, basmati rice, unpeeled boiled potato, grape juice, raisins, prunes, pumpernickel bread, cranberry juice, regular ice cream, banana, sweet potato
High 70 and above glucose (dextrose, grape sugar), high fructose corn syrup, white bread (only wheat endosperm), most white rice (only rice endosperm), corn flakes, extruded breakfast cereals, maltose, maltodextrins, white potato (83).
A low-GI food will cause blood glucose levels to increase more slowly and steadily, which leads to lower postprandial (after meal) blood glucose readings. A high-GI food causes a more rapid rise in blood glucose level and is suitable for energy recovery after exercise or for a person experiencing hypoglycemia.
The glycemic effect of foods depends on a number of factors, such as the type of starch (amylose versus amylopectin), physical entrapment of the starch molecules within the food, fat and protein content of the food and organic acids or their salts in the meal – adding vinegar, for example, will lower the GI. The presence of fat or soluble dietary fiber can slow the gastric emptying rate, thus lowering the GI. In general, coarse, grainy breads with higher amounts of fiber have a lower GI value than white breads. However, most breads made with 100% whole wheat or wholemeal flour have a GI not very different from endosperm only (white) bread. Many brown breads are treated with enzymes to soften the crust, which makes the starch more accessible (high GI).
While adding fat or protein will lower the glycemic response to a meal, the differences remain. That is, with or without additions, there is still a higher blood glucose curve after a high-GI bread than after a low-GI bread such as pumpernickel.
Fruits and vegetables tend to have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index can be applied only to foods where the test relies on subjects consuming an amount of food containing 50 g of available carbohydrate. But many fruits and vegetables (not potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn) contain less than 50 g of available carbohydrate per typical serving. Carrots were originally and incorrectly reported as having a high GI. Alcoholic beverages have been reported to have low GI values, but beer was initially reported to have a moderate GI due to the presence of maltose. This has been refuted by brewing industry professionals, who say that all maltose sugar is consumed in the brewing process and that packaged beer has little to no maltose present. Recent studies have shown that the consumption of an alcoholic drink prior to a meal reduces the GI of the meal by approximately 15%. Moderate alcohol consumption more than 12 hours prior to a test does not affect the GI.
Many modern diets rely on the glycemic index, including the South Beach Diet, Transitions by Market America and NutriSystem Nourish Diet. However, others have pointed out that foods generally considered to be unhealthy can have a low glycemic index, for instance, chocolate cake (GI 38), ice cream (37), or pure fructose (19), whereas foods like potatoes and rice have GIs around 100 but are commonly eaten in some countries with low rates of diabetes.
Last edited 16 days ago by Ruyter
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