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What is the Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load?

Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) values rank carbohydrate foods based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates that breakdown quickly during digestion have a high glycemic index. Carbohydrates that breakdown slowly have a low glycemic index. The GI value indicates how rapidly a carbohydrate turns into glucose; it doesn't indicate how much digestable carbohydrate is available in a food serving. The amount of available carbohydrate (for example, less dietary fibre) in a specific food serving multiplied by the GI value is called the glycemic load (GL) value of the food. For the effects of GI and GL, see Long-term effect of varying the source or amount of dietary carbohydrate on postprandial plasma glucose, insulin, triacylglycerol, and free fatty acid concentrations in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance, Thomas MS Wolever and Christine Mehling, AJCN, Vol. 77, No. 3, 612-621, March 2003.

Within 2 hours of consumption, foods with a high glycemic index (GI) produce higher blood glucose peaks and greater overall blood glucose responses than foods with a low GI. Even in healthy people, higher postprandial blood glucose levels are associated with all causes of mortality. Lowering postprandial blood glucose levels is a major means of minimizing the complications associated with type 2 diabetes. Your postprandial levels can be lowered by eating meals with low-GI/GL foods and checking your postprandial response to the selected meals using a blood glucose meter immediately before and two hours after each meal.

The glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test is commonly used as an indicator of how well a person has controlled their diabetes over the previous 3 months. Low-GI diets have been shown to lower HbA1c; see Importance of glycemic index in diabetes, JC Miller, AJCN, Vol 59, 747S-752S,1994.

The long-term consumption of a diet with a high glycemic load is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes; see Glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of type 2 diabetes, Walter Willett, JoAnn Manson and Simin Liu, AJCN, Vol. 76, No. 1, 274S-280S, July 2002.

A diet with a high glycemic load is also associated with elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP); see Relation between a diet with a high glycemic load and plasma concentrations of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in middle-aged women, Simin Liu, et al, AJCN, Vol. 75, No. 3, 492-498, March 2002. CRP is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, and the onset of type 2 diabetes; see Comparison of C-Reactive Protein and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in the Prediction of First Cardiovascular Events, Paul M Ridker, et al, NEJM, Vol. 347:1557-1565, No. 20, November 14 2002; C-reactive protein and diabetes mellitus type 2: The Hoorn Study, MB Snijder, JM Dekker, et al, also see Relation of Impaired Fasting and Postload Glucose With Incident Type 2 Diabetes in a Dutch Population: The Hoorn Study, Femmie de Vegt, Jacqueline M Dekker, et al, JAMA, Vol. 285 No.16, April 25, 2001, pp 2109-2113; and C-Reactive Protein, Interleukin 6, and Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Aruna D Pradhan, et al, JAMA Vol. 286, No. 3, pp. 327-334, July 18 2001.

Protein and fat have very little effect on blood glucose levels. Protein does not affect the absorption of carbohydrates or the glucose response peak. Fat delays the peak but not the total glucose response. There are some indications that the long-term consumption of high fat and high protein diets may induce insulin resistance. For more details, see Protein Controversies in Diabetes, Marion J Franz. Diabetes Spectrum, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2000, 132-141; and Effect of Protein Ingestion on the Glucose Appearance Rate in People with Type 2 Diabetes, MC Gannon, JA Nuttall, G Damberg, V Gupta, FQ Nuttall, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Vol. 86, March 2001, 1040-1047.

For more information on the glycemic index see http://www.mendosa.com/gi.htm, Diabetes and Diet: A Type 2 Patient's Successful Efforts at Control, The Glucose Revolution: The Authorative Guide to the Glycemic Index, and Diabetes, Sugar and Energy

Download Database
PC all or PDB only
Mac all or PDB only

To help me choose low-GI and low-GL foods, I've created a Palm-based SmartList database of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load values. It is based on data from: International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002, Kaye Foster-Powell, Susanna HA Holt, and Janette C Brand-Miller, AJCN, Vol.76, No.1, 5-56, July 2002; http://www.glycemicindex.com/; and http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm. For other Palm-based GI lists, see the MobileDBLite versions at http://www.tanidesign.co.uk/.

Database Description

Click to download SmartList Viewer...
GI & GL Values SmartList

Glycemic Index (GI) & Glycemic Load (GL) Values
Version: February 18, 2003

Files included...
SmartList: TD2_Glycemic_Lists.PDB
Microsoft Access version: Glycemic_Lists.mdb
Text-only version: Glycemic_Lists.csv

Viewers & decompression software...
SmartList Viewer: http://www.dataviz.com/products/smartlisttogo/index.html
Text-only Viewer: http://office.microsoft.com/downloads/2000/xlviewer.aspx
Decompression software: decompress & http://www.info-zip.org/pub/infozip/

SmartList Features

  1. Lists GI (glucose and bread) and GL values for 750 food types and includes over 1400 data entries
  2. Ability to list data entries according to specific food groups that include: Bakery, Beverages, Breads, Breakfast Cereals, Breakfast Bars, Cereal Grains, Cookies, Crackers, Dairy, Drink Powders, Fruit, Indigenous, Infant, Juices, Legumes, Meal Replacement, Mixed Meals, Nutritional Supplements, Pasta & Noodles, Snacks & Candies, Soups, Sports Bars, Sports Drinks, Sugars, and Vegetables
  3. Ability to filter and list data entries according to Low GL, Medium GL, High GL, Low GI, Medium GI, High GI, or any combination thereof
  4. Ability to sort and list, in ascending or descending order, all or groups of, data entries according to GI or GL value
Updated: April 6, 2003