03 Issues & Trends
Cereal Foods World, Vol. 63, No. 4
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Counterpoint: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Add Complexity and Have Marginal Value for Helping Consumers Choose Quality Carbohydrates
Julie M. Jones1
St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN, U.S.A.

1 St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105, U.S.A. Tel: +1.651.690.6000; E-mail: jmjones@stkate.edu


Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) were proposed in the 1980s as ways to measure carbohydrate quality. Despite extensive research, findings published in the literature are inconsistent with respect to most health outcomes. In addition, GI values published in tables and on food packaging may not characterize the glycemic response of a food as eaten, especially when it is eaten as part of a meal. Further, these values do not consider variability introduced by any number of factors, such as variety, ripeness, degree and mode of cooking or processing, presence of other foods or ingredients, temperature of food when eaten, amount eaten, etc. The use of GI as a touchstone in food selection, diet planning, and other applications is concerning due to its wide variability and limited precision and accuracy. With standard deviations that are equal to class boundaries for medium-GI foods, designation of foods as high, medium, or low GI is prone to error. This discussion identifies some of the limitations surrounding the measure and its use and outlines the weak evidence for many health outcomes. Further, the assignment of GI values to food intake data collected in dietary surveys by food frequency and other vehicles is questioned. It is unclear whether GI and GL can help consumers determine carbohydrate quality and guide them to make food choices that may reduce their risk of associated chronic diseases. Although a group of noted scientists has met and published a consensus on carbohydrate quality, their findings are not aligned with those of other recognized health-promotion organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. Thus, their conclusion that GI and GL are measures of carbohydrate quality is not substantiated by the state of the research at this point in time, making the publication of a consensus on the subject premature.

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