Glycemic Index: Physiological Significance
Journal of the American College of Nutrition
Amin Esfahani, MSc; Julia M. W. Wong, PhD; Arash Mirrahimi, BSc; Korbua Srichaikul, BSc; David J. A. Jenkins, MD, PhD; Cyril W. C. Kendall, PhD
The glycemic index (GI) is a physiological assessment of a food’s carbohydrate content through its effect on postprandial blood glucose concentrations. Evidence from trials and observational studies suggests that this physiological classification may have relevance to those chronic Western diseases associated with overconsumption and inactivity leading to central obesity and insulin resistance.
The glycemic index classification of foods has been used as a tool to assess potential prevention and treatment strategies for diseases where glycemic control is of importance, such as diabetes. Low GI diets have also been reported to improve the serum lipid profile, reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations, and aid in weight control. In cross-sectional studies, low GI or glycemic load diets (mean GI multiplied by total carbohydrate) have been associated with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), with reduced CRP concentrations, and, in cohort studies, with decreased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, some case-control and cohort studies have found positive associations between dietary GI and risk of various cancers, including those of the colon, breast, and prostate.
Although inconsistencies in the current findings still need to be resolved, sufficient positive evidence, especially with respect to renewed interest in postprandial events, suggests that the glycemic index may have a role to play in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases.