The quality of carbohydrates in foods as measured by their glycaemic index (GI) should be included in national dietary guidelines and on food labels, according to a group of leading nutrition scientists from ten countries.
Following a two-day conference in Stresa, Italy – the International Scientific Consensus Summit on Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Glycemic Response – the committee concluded that carbohydrates in different foods affect post-meal blood sugar differently, with important health implications.
The resulting consensus statement says that based on a large body of scientific evidence, low GI foods are helpful to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, can help control blood glucose for people with diabetes, and may also help with weight management.
“The GI complements other ways of characterizing carbohydrate-foods, such as fiber and whole grain content,” the statement reads.
The scientists said that the rapid rise in diabetes and obesity means that there is a need to better communicate on GI and GL (glycaemic load).
“This should be supported by inclusion of GI/GL in dietary guidelines and in food composition tables,” they said in the statement.
“In addition package labels and low GI/GL symbols on healthy foods should be considered.
“More comprehensive high-quality food composition tables need to be developed for GI/GL at the national level.”
Glycaemic index refers to how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating certain foods, while glycaemic load also takes into account the amount of carbohydrate consumed.
Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the participating scientists, Walter Willett, said: "Given essentially conclusive evidence that high GI/GL diets contribute to risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reduction in GI and GL should be a public health priority."
The conference was organised by two nonprofits, Oldways and the Nutrition Foundation of Italy.