Advertisement

The Glycemic Index of High-Sugar Foods

      To the Editor:
      The author of the Research Behind the News section in the December 2006 issue of the Journal asks the question, “What happens if you get pregnant on South Beach?” (
      • Peregrin T.
      What happens if you get pregnant on South Beach?.
      ). In answering the question, the author assumes that high-sugar foods are high-glycemic-index (GI) foods and, by eliminating these foods, women are eating a low-GI diet. However, many high-sugar foods fall into the moderate- and low-GI categories. For example, Coke (The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA) (GI=58), a Snickers bar (Mars Incorporated, Hackettstown, NJ) (GI=55), and ice cream (GI=36 to 80) have moderate GI values whereas premium ice cream (GI=37) has a low GI value (
      • Foster-Powell K.
      • Holt S.H.
      • Brand-Miller J.C.
      International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002.
      ).
      In fact, all sugars have moderate to low GI values, and one way to lower the GI value of a food is to sweeten it with fructose (GI=19) and/or add fat. Sugars have a lower GI because they are only 50% glucose while starches have a higher GI because they are polymers of glucose and have the potential to be metabolized to 100% glucose. And, incidentally, high-sugar foods are not absorbed more rapidly than starches. Research shows the peak effect occurs at approximately the same time (
      • Crapo P.A.
      • Reaven G.
      • Olefsky J.
      Postprandial plasma-glucose and -insulin responses to different complex carbohydrates.
      ). This is also true of high- vs low-GI meals. Although the peak postprandial effect from the low-GI meal may be slightly lower than from a high-GI meal, it occurs at the same time (
      • Rizkalla S.W.
      • Taghrid L.
      • Laromiguiere M.
      • Huet D.
      • Boillot J.
      • Rigoir A.
      • Elgrably F.
      • Slama G.
      Improved glucose control, whole-body glucose utilization, and lipid profiles on a low-glycemic index diet in type 2 diabetic men.
      ). Unfortunately, it is also commonly assumed that GI values can be used to identify what are commonly thought of as “healthy” foods. Yet, whole wheat, brown rice, and brown spaghetti have the same GI values as their refined white versions and, whereas fruits generally have a low GI, whole fruits and juice have the same GI (
      • Wolever T.M.S.
      Physiological mechanisms and observed health impacts related to the glycaemic index: some observations.
      ).
      Although it is good advice for everyone, including women with gestational diabetes, to be cautious in the use of high-sugar foods, it’s because these foods have minimal nutritional values, not because they are high-GI foods. The author’s bottom line that pickles may well be on a low-GI diet may be accurate, but it turns out that ice cream is also, especially if it is a premium ice cream!

      References

        • Peregrin T.
        What happens if you get pregnant on South Beach?.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2006; 106: 1934
        • Foster-Powell K.
        • Holt S.H.
        • Brand-Miller J.C.
        International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 76: 5-56
        • Crapo P.A.
        • Reaven G.
        • Olefsky J.
        Postprandial plasma-glucose and -insulin responses to different complex carbohydrates.
        Diabetes. 1977; 26: 1178-1183
        • Rizkalla S.W.
        • Taghrid L.
        • Laromiguiere M.
        • Huet D.
        • Boillot J.
        • Rigoir A.
        • Elgrably F.
        • Slama G.
        Improved glucose control, whole-body glucose utilization, and lipid profiles on a low-glycemic index diet in type 2 diabetic men.
        Diabetes Care. 2004; 27: 1866-1872
        • Wolever T.M.S.
        Physiological mechanisms and observed health impacts related to the glycaemic index: some observations.
        Int J Obes. 2006; 30: S72-S78

      Linked Article

      • December 2006 Research Behind the News
        Journal of the American Dietetic AssociationVol. 106Issue 12
        • Preview
          Consuming orange juice drinks fortified with plant sterols can result in significant improvement of a consumer’s lipid profile, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis. It has already been shown that plant cholesterol, or sterols, can lower “bad” cholesterol when added to orange juice, but now researchers are seeing the added benefit of reduced inflammation, a process that plays an important role in the development of heart disease, according to Dr Sridevi Devaraj, lead author of the study.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF
      • Editor’s Response
        Journal of the American Dietetic AssociationVol. 107Issue 4
        • Preview
          We appreciate the comments regarding the use of glycemic index (GI) within the context of the Research Behind the News column in the December 2006 issue (1), which highlighted the findings of an Australian study on the use of glycemic index in nondiabetic, healthy, pregnant women (2,3). The goal of the entire Practice Applications section is to help readers find condensed information. Research Behind the News, which first ran in November 2006, is a new section in the Practice Applications with the specific goal of highlighting three or four articles abstracted in the New in Review section within each issue for the readers in the hopes they will continue their interest by reading the abstract and potentially the actual research.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF