Food, Glycaemic Response and Health

ILSI Europe Concise Monograph. 2011:1-30

Carbohydrates typically provide the major energy contribution to our diet. They also lead to rises in blood sugar or blood glucose (glycaemia). The glycaemic response to a food or meal is the effect that food or meal has on blood glucose levels after consumption. It is normal for blood glucose and insulin levels to rise after eating and then return again to fasting levels over a short period of time. This is particularly so after consumption of meals rich in certain carbohydrates. Reducing the size and duration of rises in blood glucose after meals is particularly important for people with diabetes, and may also be of benefit to the general population. Several tools have been developed to help quantify and communicate the effect of food on glycaemic response. These include glycaemic index (GI), glycaemic load (GL) and glycaemic glucose equivalents (GGE).

In 1981, the idea of classifying carbohydrates according to their GI was first published. Since then, many studies have been undertaken to determine the impact of altering the blood glucose-raising potential (glycaemic challenge) of the diet on a wide range of short- and long-term health outcomes. However, evaluating the impact of a single dietary change on health is notoriously complex, and opinions on the relevance of GI, GL and GGE have been divided.

It is becoming evident that modifying the glycaemic response of the diet should not be seen as a stand-alone strategy but rather as an element of an overall balanced diet and lifestyle. This Concise Monograph seeks to provide a balanced overview of the ILSI Europe findings to date linking glycaemic response with health outcomes. It includes a summary of the most recently available information and sections on the glycaemic properties of foods and on the glycaemic concept in action. In the tradition of ILSI Europe Concise Monographs, it is hoped that this volume will inform healthcare professionals, students and motivated consumers alike, becoming a useful educational and reference tool.

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