Glycemic Index And Glycemic Load - How Does Food Affect Blood Sugar (Glucose) Levels And The After Eating Changes

Anything and everything that we eat or drink is acted upon by the digestive juices and digested by the human body. Our body then has to decide in which of the following ways this has to be utilized.

  1. To provide energy.
  2. To store it as fat.

Our body has been so programmed genetically that whenever possible food is stored as fat since survival is of prime importance.
That said, the 2 factors responsible for the body to decide what to do with what we ingest are :

  • Glycemic Index (GI)
  • Glycemic Load (GL)

Let us now see what these 2 factors are, what they mean and why are they so important for us.

changes in blood sugar levels brought about by  high GI and low GI foods
changes in blood sugar levels brought about by high GI and low GI foods | Source

Glycemic Index (GI)


Whatever we eat is processed, metabolized and affects the body in many ways including the following :

  • First, it raises the blood glucose levels.
  • Second, this raised blood sugar levels affects the insulin secretion.
  • Third, the fat storage mechanism is activated.
  • Fourth, it affects the pancreas - the insulin manufacturing and secreting organ.

In simple words, Glycemic Index of a food is a number that tells us to what degree the carbohydrates in the food raise the blood sugar levels. This number has been determined by comparing it against the rise in blood sugar brought about by pure glucose.

Glucosehas been given a GI of 100 and the Glycemic index of all foods have been rated with reference to it and have a GI lower than this.

When food is consumed, the carbohydrates in the food raise the blood sugar either quickly or slowly. Those foods that are digested fast, raise blood sugar rapidly and have a higher Glycemic Index than those that are digested slowly and raise blood sugar gradually and thus have a lower Glycemic Index.
It is interesting to note that the foods which raise blood sugar rapidly also tend to raise it to a higher level as compared to low GI foods.

So foods have, either, a high Glycemic Index or a low Glycemic Index.


What Do High Glycemic Index Foods Do ?

High GI foods

  • Raise blood sugar rapidly
  • Provide quick energy
  • Cause increased insulin release

And the increased insulin causes,

  • A rapid drop in blood sugar levels
  • This reduces the energy supply and causes one to feel hungry

In addition to carbohydrates, the different levels of protein and fat in the ingested food also affect the metabolic response of the body to the food and alter it glycemic response.

If pure protein is consumed and no carbohydrates are, it causes an insulin response, especially in those having diabetes.

This can be seen in the case of milk, which is a potent insulin secretagogue, as studies have shown it to cause a five times increased insulin response than what is expected from a glucose response. This is why, excess milk consumption in bottle fed infants, leads to increased weight gain.

Similarly, when adults consume excess milk or protein and do little exercise it results in increase in body fat and weight.

Studies also indicate that consuming more than 30 grams of protein at a time makes the calories so produced to be converted into fat, especially abdominal fat.


Glycemic Index Of Foods & Additions That Can Affect Their GI

Foods with

  • GI up to 55 are Low GI foods -
    legumes/pulses, most fruits & vegetables, some whole grains, nuts, fructose, chick peas, kidney beans, beets.
  • GI 56 - 69 are Medium GI foods -
    whole wheat products, sucrose, baked potatoes, sweet potato, basmati rice.
  • GI 70+ are High GI foods -
    white bread, white rice, cornflakes, maltose, glucose, all extruded breakfast cereals.

However, the glycemic effect of foods with a high glycemic index can vary with the addition of fat, protein, organic acids or their salts, etc.

For instance,

  • Adding vinegar reduces the GI of the food
  • Presence of fat or fiber slows down the absorption rate and lowers GI. Therefore breads that are coarse or have higher fiber content have a lower GI.
  • Consuming alcoholic beverages, excluding beer, just before a meal reduces the glycemic index of the food by as much as 15% as studies indicate.


Risks Of High GI Foods

  • Higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and macular degeneration.
  • High blood sugar levels also pose an increased risk to plaque deposition in the arteries as well as risk of developing kidney disease,
  • Increased susceptibility to cancer.
  • Increased weight gain and predisposes to obesity.


To Sum Up

Everything we eat has a Glycemic index assigned to it.

  • High GI foods are digested quickly, raise blood sugar levels rapidly causing rise in insulin secretion and levels and stimulate fat storage.
  • The consequent fall in blood sugar levels leads to fall in energy and produces hunger in varying degrees causing one to eat again. Thus, repeating the cycle and causing more and more fat to be stored.
  • Makes the pancreas work harder and more.

Conversely,

Low GI foods

  • Are digested slowly thus release glucose gradually in the blood, cause a lower spike in blood sugar levels.
  • Do not stimulate fat storage.


Some Additional Points To Note

  • Foods with low glycemic index can have high carbohydrate content or vice versa.
  • Glycemic index is not dependent on the amount of food consumed
  • All foods having high GI need not be avoided all the time. For instance, in times after strenuous activity like sports and exercise, the body needs rapid energy and more insulin to pump this glucose into the cells for repair. This is brought about by foods having high GI, like sports drinks, which the trainers and coaches advise.
  • The GI accuracy of the foods is variable as it depends on the varieties, ripeness, processing method, duration of cooking, storage time, etc.
  • The glycemic response also depends upon the individual response, depends on the blood glucose levels, insulin resistance etc.

These factors mentioned above are not within our control and the GI values have been worked out by feeding people who have been subjected to experimental test feeding of the specific foods and by the testing of the blood samples at different intervals of time.

All said and done, it has to be realised that of all the factors, the quantity of carbohydrates consumed ( and this is within our control), has the biggest bearing on blood sugar levels than Glycemic Index alone.

So, another factor, the Glycemic Load (GL) comes into the picture.

Glycemic Load (GL)

Glycemic Load, like Glycemic Index has a number attached to it but it is not a fixed number but varies according to the amount of food consumed.

Glycemic Load tells us the carbohydrates load we are consuming per serving of a food.

A simple formula to determine the Glycemic Load of any food is :

GL = GI/100 multiplied by the net carbohydrates consumed.
( Net carbohydrates = Total carbohydrates minus the dietary fiber)

A Glycemic Load (GL) of 1 is equal to the Glycemic effect that 1 gram of glucose causes.

Standard diets have a total GL values from 60 - 180 per day.
It is important to keep the daily Glycemic load less than 500.

Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load And The Third Factor


Since it has been shown in studies that repeated high levels of blood sugar and correspondingly high insulin levels cause increased risk to diabetes, managing the Glycemic Load ensures that these blood sugar spikes are avoided, thus avoiding type 2 diabetes.

This tool - the Glycemic Load - is extremely useful for controlling blood sugar levels especially in diabetics.

Glycemic Load management also helps in controlling weight gain and obesity and reducing risk to cancer.

Also,

Along with Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load, the Calories contained in foods are also taken into account so as not to over consume on fats & calories.

The following example will illustrate this well.

An Apple having a GI 38 and weighing 138 grams contains 16 grams of net carbs and has a GL of 6 (38/100x16).
A serving of 4 ounces of peanuts (113 grams) with a much lower GI of 14 and containing 15 grams of net carbs, has a still lower GL of 2 (14/100x15).

On the face of it, a look at the Glycemic Load alone, peanuts would seem a better choice than apples. But it is not so! Why?

Because, in the quantities mentioned in the above example, Apples contain approximately 72 calories while peanuts contain more than 500 calories.That is over 400 calories more than in Apples.

These extra calories will not help in reducing weight.

The above example shows that ;

We have to keep in mind the Glycemic Index, the Glycemic Load and the Calories contained in the serving size of the food, to benefit fully from what we eat and avoid a lot of health issues like weight gain, obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer.


Disclaimer

This article is research based and is for information purposes only. Please take the advice of your healthcare provider or medical doctor before you start to put any of the suggestions offered in this hub, into practice.

What Is Glycemic Index ?

Burden of the Glycemic Load

© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly

More by this Author


Comments 25 comments

Squeesh profile image

Squeesh 4 years ago from United States

Great Hub! Really useful information! Thank you.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks for reading Squeesh. I'm glad it is useful.

Thank you for reading.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

A great hub. GI plays an important role in losing weight.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks for reading, Vellur.


Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Great information presented in a very clear and made easy to understand.

This article has been shared on Stumble, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Reddit and my hub following.

Via: http://angelabrummer.hubpages.com/hub/Hubber-Alert

If you can share mine http://angelabrummer.hubpages.com/hub/Corn-Hole-Ga It would be appreciated. And feel free to contact the others and the list to share article sharing!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks for reading, appreciating and sharing the hub. Angela, the link to hub provided by you is broken.

Thanks again.


Teresa Schultz profile image

Teresa Schultz 4 years ago from East London, in South Africa

Wow, you've really covered the Glycemic Index in detail - well done. Voted up, interesting, and shared to my HubPages followers.


Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

Great hub, so glad you posted it in the hubber alert article, I don't think I would have found it otherwise!! Voted up and SHARED!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

I'm glad you found this good. It's a bit off the usual health hubs of mine. I hope I could make it simple enough to be understood by a reader who is not well versed in scientific terms.

Thanks for stopping by, voting and sharing.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Teresa, this is one of my favorite hubs though it's not had many readers. Maybe the topic isn't quite appealing. I've tried to make it as easy to understand as I could. I hope readers benefit from the info provided in this hub.

So glad you liked it. Thanks for reading, appreciating, voting it up and sharing.


Teresa Schultz profile image

Teresa Schultz 4 years ago from East London, in South Africa

I'm sorry it hasn't had many readers - and I agree with Daughter of Maat - it was good that it was given exposure in the Hubber Alert hub - otherwise might not have been something I would have found either.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks for your concern, Teresa. This was the reason I wished this hub to be shared so that more readers could understand how food affects our health. I'm really thankful to you and Daughter of Maat, for having shared this hub.

Thanks again.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Rajan, this is a very interesting and well explained hub. I am on a GI Diet at the moment so this made a bit more sense to me!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

I'm glad you appreciate the effort in writing this hub. I wanted to explain it in as simple terms as possible. Thanks for coming by.


kelleyward 4 years ago

Rajan, this is a fantastic resource for diabetics. I'd like to link this to my diet and nutrition for diabetics hub. Thanks for posting this! Voted up! Kelley


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Kelley, I'm honored by such high comments from you. Appreciate the linking and thanks for all the vote and support.


AnniesHealthTalk profile image

AnniesHealthTalk 4 years ago from United States

Great article! I linked to this in one of my hubs! Voted up and useful.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Hi Annie. Thanks for reading and linking my hub to yours. Appreciate the votes. Welcome and all the best on hubpages.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire

rajan

namasta, the suagr thing is difficult for most people to comprehend. I've been type 2 for ten years and still don't understand fully what is happeing with my blood sugar. It varies so much from day to day and at the moment it is quite high, I'm trying out a new injection which is not insulin and is supposed to help control the sugar and my weight. The jury is still out as to how effective it is.

with respect

Tony


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Hi tony,

I do hope the new drug that you are taking for your raised blood sugar works for you. thanks for sparing time to read and comment. Much appreciated.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

This is a great hub which explains the concepts well. Given the levels of diabetes these days, it's so important to develop a firm understanding of how what you eat impacts your body. Voted up and more.


GoForTheJuggler profile image

GoForTheJuggler 3 years ago from Texas

Great hub full of fantastic info - voted up and more!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

@Flourish-thanks.

@GoForTheJuggler-thank you.


Editor 2 years ago

Under "Some additional points to consider" there is a grammatical error in this paragraph:

These factors mentioned above are not within are control and the GI values have been worked out by feeding people who have been subjected to experimental test feeding of the specific foods and by the testing of the blood samples at different intervals of time.

The second "are" should be "our".


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks Editor for pointing out the error. It stands corrected now.

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