The Glycemic Index:
Soap Bubble or Magic Weight Loss Solution?
by Rajesh Shetty

The Glycemic Index ranks different carbohydrate foods depending on their potential to raise blood glucose levels.

The Glycemic Index ranking is on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the Glycemic Index (GI), the higher a carbohydrate's ability to cause a spike (rise) in your blood glucose levels.

Low GI foods — by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption — tend to produce more gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have certain health benefits. And low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2).

This is about as far as it goes, for using the Glycemic Index for weight loss.

Popular diets, like the South Beach Diet, are founded on the premise that a spike in blood glucose levels, leads to more hunger and subsequent weight gain... Whereas foods with a low GI, have a tendency to delay hunger or lower appetite, thus leading to weight loss.

This is too simplistic and not supported by the scientific evidence. Read the following excerpt from WebMD:

Experts Take On the Glycemic Index

It sounds like a magic formula for dieters — but experts have long been saying there's no such thing. "If you don't have peaks and valleys in your glucose level then hunger should be kept at bay," says Kathleen Zellman, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "However, it's not that simple. It's also affected by meal size, whether there's any fat in the meal, and overall health status."

"Glycemic index looks at individual foods — not how that food might interact with another," says Connie Diekman, RD, an ADA spokesperson in St. Louis, Missouri. "If you eat a high glycemic index food with a protein, for example, it might be absorbed more slowly ... That's the hang-up with glycemic index. Very few people will sit down and eat one high glycemic index food and then another. It's meals that we eat."

Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says it's never been proven that high insulin levels — which result when a high glycemic index food is eaten — mean increased hunger. "When [you] work with patients who get real hungry between meals, you have to try a couple of different things. I'm not sure if it's glycemic index, the bulk of food, the content of food that gives [the sense of fullness] ... I also have them consider adding protein and modest amounts of fat to decrease overeating between meals."

All the researchers are unanimous in so far as; it's the fiber content of the diet that is more important for controlling diabetes and weight gain, than the Glycemic Index.

Read these excerpts of new research from WebMD:

New research shows that when it comes to type 2 diabetes, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Tufts University researchers report that eating whole-grain foods, especially fiber-rich cereals, appears to improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of the metabolic syndrome.

Whole-grain foods have already been found to help protect against heart disease and certain cancers, and the newly published study is one of several that indicates there is a protective role for whole grains against a constellation of major risk factors that lead to metabolic syndrome -- a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and the development of type 2 diabetes.

"Unless you're a diabetic, glycemic index may not be all that important," says Jack Alhadeff, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, who adds that since most of us eat a variety of foods in a meal, the accuracy of the index can be questionable.

But what about the notion that glucose from high-index foods is more likely to be stored as fat?

"The scientific literature is very clear that eating carbohydrates that are embedded in plant cellulose -- complex carbohydrates -- is always better," says Nagi Kumar, Ph.D., director of clinical nutrition at the Moffitt Cancer Center and professor of human nutrition at the University of South Florida in Tampa. "But the reasons it is better are not because it somehow lessens or alters fat storage."

All this leads one to conclude that the importance of fiber is far more than the Glycemic Index for dieters.

Weight loss programs, like many low carb diets and the popular South Beach Diet may only be trying to exploit the limited scientific data on Glycemic Index to sell their diet programs.

A diet rich in fiber has many advantages like:

  1. Fiber can help you avoid overeating.
  2. Fiber can bind with cholesterol in the digestive tract, thus lowering blood cholesterol.
  3. Fiber-rich foods tend to be loaded with phytochemicals that appear to have anticancer functions.

Along with these benefits and its role in weight maintenance, fiber also helps prevent the following:

  • Constipation
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Appendicitis
  • Diverticulosis — an intestinal disease where pockets in the intestinal lining become infected.

A diet program which recommends fiber rich foods and is loaded with healthy and natural weight loss alternatives, as opposed to the foods recommended by the fad diets, is the only alternative for safe and sure weight loss.

About the author: Rajesh Shetty is an expert in the weight loss principles of Ayurveda Medical Science and author of the best selling book, "Proven weight loss secrets revealed".