Karen's Blogs

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Glycemic Index Findings

It seems as if every few years or so a new approach to losing weight pops up and markets its way into mainstream culture. The glycemic index (GI), focusing on blood sugar levels and carbohydrates, has been in vogue for some time. Now, however, studies tell us that using the GI is not a one-size-fits-all tool for eating, working for some people but not others.

An article in the June 2011 TUFTS UNIVERSITY & NUTRITION HEALTH LETTER, Findings cast doubt on glycemic-index appetite effects, explains how the glycemic index may not impact appetite as its promoters would have us think. A Netherlands’ Unilever Research and Development study led by Harry Peters, PhD, “tested the theory that low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates that digest more slowly and have more gradual effects on insulin and glucose levels might combat hunger better than high-GI foods.”
Peters team found previous studies of GI and appetite inconclusive. Specifically, they compared the fullness of study participants after a meal of various GI carbohydrates, that is, some meals had high GI carbs and some had low ones. The result showed only minimal differences between the two in combating hunger leaving Peters to conclude, “These results cast further doubt on the notion that slowly digested carbohydrates may influence appetite through their effects on glycemic responses.”

Susan B. Roberts, PhD, of Tufts University found similar results in her research, concluding that “participants achieved and maintained comparable weight loss after one year, regardless of whether they were on a low- or high-glycemic index diet.” Her findings: that eating according to the GI index works for about 50% of people. Her advice is for eaters to raise their awareness about hunger, specifically to, “Try different breakfasts…If you get hungry more quickly after eating the high-GI breakfast, chances are you will do better if you go the low-GI route.”

Her advice underscores what the non-diet approach to weight loss has been saying for decades: listen to your body and notice how you react to food. It’s important to observe not only when you’re hungry and how hungry, but how effective foods are in quelling hunger. Personally, when I’m low on fuel, I crave substantial food, in part because that’s what satisfies my hunger and in part because I know that it will, as the saying goes, stick to my ribs. Find out what works to satisfy your hunger (and keep it satisfied) by experimenting with different kinds of foods. You don’t need a scientist or expert to give you answers. All you need is to pay attention to your appetite signals. How easy is that?

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