Making sense of the glycemic index for diabetics

Harold Mandel's picture
Checking  blood sugar levels

Diabetes has become an increasingly common chronic disease. This is a disease which should not be taken lightly due to the serious harm which is associated with side effects from diabetes, particularly in patients who do not manage their illness well. Diet is a primary consideration in managing diabetes properly. An understanding of exactly what the glycemic index means may be helpful in dietary management of this condition.

The Glycemic Index Foundation in Australia says that diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in the world. In 2012 it was estimated that greater than 371 million people had type 2 diabetes. It is estimated by 2030 about 552 million people will suffer from type 2 diabetes. In diabetes there is too much glucose in the blood. The pancreas fails to make insulin or simply can not make the necessary amount of insulin in diabetes, leading to a build up of insulin in the blood. The glycemic index offers us a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect your blood glucose levels. EmaxHealth reporter Armen Hareyan has written on how low glycemic food is better for type-2 diabetes control.

The types of diabetes include:

1: Type 1: An autoimmune condition that destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas

2: Type 2: A metabolic condition where the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin


3: Gestational: A metabolic condition which occurs during pregnancy in part due to pregnancy hormones, and in most cases disappears shortly after giving birth

4: Pre-diabetes: A condition where your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

The American Heart Association discusses the use of the glycemic index as a tool to help with the management of diabetes. It is important for diabetics to monitor carbohydrates in their diet to help avoid blood sugar spikes. It is also important to recognize that different carbohydrates work in different ways. Carbohydrates which are absorbed or metabolized quickly lead to a spike in blood sugar. Carbohydrates which are absorbed more slowly help keep blood sugar levels even.

Foods which contain refined carbohydrates, such as with added sugars or white flour, cause a more rapid rise in blood sugar levels than foods which are made up of whole grains or vegetables. The glycemic index offers a guide for evaluating carbohydrates by making a comparison of how the carbohydrates in different types of foods raise blood sugar. However, just knowing the glycemic index of food is not a cure all for diabetes. Barbara V. Howard, Ph.d, who is a professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, has said, “Just knowing the glycemic index value is an over simplification.”

It is important to make sense of the glycemic index. Although you can look up the glycemic index of each food item, most of us do not eat just one food at a time, which makes it more difficult to control the overall glycemic index. Furthermore, how the food you eat is cooked also changes the way carbohydrates are processed by your body. If a certain amount of fat is consumed the absorption of sugar will be retarded somewhat. And consider that various ways of processing food effects the glycemic index. Oatmeal which is made using rolled, or steel-cut oats has a lower glycemic index than oatmeal which is prepared using instant oats, which has a high glycemic index.

It has been my observation that it is a very challenging task for diabetics to control their diet. Although the glycemic index has limited value when considering entire meals, it often has more value for snacks when one food is eaten at a time. The glycemic index may therefore serve as one important tool in choosing the healthiest carbohydrates to eat, but should not be your only consideration. Some foods with a higher glycemic index, such as fruits, are very nutritious. EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell has written about reducing type 2 diabetes risk with fruit. Clearly, an understanding of the complexities involved in evaluating the glycemic index should be helpful in planning a god diet for diabetics and for the prevention of diabetes.



It is true and it is becoming chronic due to the food we intake everyday. As the globe becomes more competitive, people mostly in highly urbanized countries get more diabetes cases and its becoming chronic due to the fact that they are running with time. So fast foods and the numerous industrially produced products are the easy skip in eating healthy foods and just provide answer to its hunger. No wonder even new born are now having diabetes and obesity.
I appreciate your taking the time to share your insightful comment.
It is important for readers to be aware with the foods that they part take everyday. And as much as I could, I would like to see many humans enjoy a healthy life for a long time. Just like the olden times :)
You are right to allude to the increasing health care problems which are associated with processed food which makes up most of the food available in the supermarkets. A good start to try to get people back to basics as you are suggesting would be to encourage people to try to enjoy Thanksgiving this year with just fresh turkey, fruits and veggies! And if you insist on pie for desert it should be homemade with fresh pumpkin!