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Benefits of a Low Glycemic Diet

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According to a Gallup Poll in 2013, 51% of adults would like to lose weight (1).  Thirty billion is spent on diets each and every year in the United States alone.

For adults 35 and above, having a body mass index above 30 is considered obese, and dangerous to ones health (2). Obesity is not only an issue cosmetically, but it can also have many detrimental effects on one’s health including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and other degenerative conditions. According to the national cancer institute around 84,000 cancer cases are linked to obesity,and the effectiveness of one’s cancer treatments may also be affected by because of a patients size.  Studies have shown that excess fat can increase the risk of complications during surgery, including infection and even death.

Not only can obesity and excess weight have also large affect on our physical body, it also has an affect on one’s self image, happiness and overall well being.  According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, when a group of 100 people were asked what their main motivation for losing weight and being healthier was, the most common response received was self esteem and happiness

Our bodies are able to perform best best when our blood sugar levels rise slowly while staying constant and steady over an extended period of time.  In 1981 Dr David Jenkins introduced a concept for how quickly our bodies are able to absorb long chains of sugar which make up carbohydrates.  The glycemic index is a system that assigns a number to carbohydrate based foods according to how much each food raises blood sugar.  When high glycemic foods are eaten, blood sugar rises quickly and causes insulin to be released by the pancreas to lower blood sugar, mainly by converting the excess sugar to fat, predominantly in the midsection (4).  When blood sugar rises quickly, it causes a large release of free radicals, which cause inflammation of the arteries, this is known as glycemic stress.  A major contributor to obesity is when our bodies become insensitive to insulin and starts storing additional fat, and holding on to the fat similar to a sponge holding water.

Dr Jenkins surprised many people when he found some complex carbohydrates  of high glycemic found in bread, flour, rice, cereal and potatoes actually spike peoples blood sugar more than if they were spooning table sugar on to their tongue.  Many high glycemic foods have been stripped of fiber and other important nutrients that help our body process food efficiently. Fiber slows down the body’s absorption of sugar and carbohydrates along with keeping us full and satiated for an extended period of time. Therefore, the lack of fiber in foods causes our blood sugar to spike, and shortly after we crash and feel like we need more sugar to get back to our set point. The picture below shows the difference in how our blood sugar levels are affected between a high and low glycemic meal.

While we may have caused our bodies damage by eating large amounts of high glycemic and nutrient deficient foods, recent research has shown that metabolic syndrome may be reversible through lifestyle changes.  Multiple studies have been done of those who are obese and have metabolic syndrome (a pre diabetic state that involves multiple symptoms including overweight and central obesity, insulin resistance) have showed by switching to a low glycemic and mediterranean style diet people’s blood sugar decreased, ldl cholesterol decreased and overall better metabolic health.  A study done through the Canadian Medical Association of men and women aged 55-80 who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease saw a 28.2 percent incident reduction of  metabolic syndrome when adopting a Mediterranean diet consisting of olive oil, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and beans.  Additionally, participants in the study who supplemented with nuts and olive oil showed significant decreases in obesity and fasting glucose (6).

Low Glycemic Foods

There are many benefits of switching to a low glycemic or slow burning carbohydrate diet.  By eating a healthy low glycemic meal and or food we are able to improve our bodies sensitivity to insulin, while balancing blood sugar levels. feeling full longer, and helping the body naturally release unwanted weight.  A recent study at the University of Sydney in Australia showed that people who ate low-gi diets were twice as likely to lose five percent of their body weight and keep it off as opposed to those who ate a traditional high glycemic and low fat foods (7).

Similarly, a twelve week study of 25 people who were at risk for developing metabolic syndrome was done in conjunction with the University of Colorado Denver and USANA health Sciences.  In this study the participants were asked to substitute a low glycemic shake for breakfast and lunch, eat a low glycemic snack and dinner along with exercising and taking a multi vitamin/mineral supplement each day.  The average weight lost amongst the participants was thirteen pounds, and four participants lost 25 pounds or more.  Most importantly, the participants saw a significant decrease in BMI and waist circumference, ldl and total cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, and an increased sensitivity to insulin (8).

Low Glycemic foods are typically foods that have not been stripped of fiber and other important nutrients. Also, fat and fiber tend to low down the bodies absorption of sugar and carbohydrates.  Generally, the more processed a food is, the higher the glycemic index will be, this is not always the case though.  Here are some factors which contribute to how fast a food spikes our blood sugar:

Ripeness: the more ripe a fruit or vegetable, the higher it’s GI

Processing: juice has a higher GI than whole fruit,

cooking- how long a food is cooked

Portion sizes and how we combine our foods may also contribute to the Glycemic index of a food as well  When we combine proteins, fats, and or fibers with a meal, it will slow down the bodies absorption of carbs or sugars

For a guide to the healthiest low glycemic foods check out http://www.optimalfoods.org/

 

Sources

 

(1) http://www.gallup.com/poll/166082/americans-desire-shed-pounds-outweighs-effort.aspx
(2) http://www.medicinenet.com/obesity_weight_loss/article.htm#obesity_facts
(3) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/obesity
(4) http://livewell.jillianmichaels.com/high-gi-foods-avoid-5090.html

(5) http://www.naturalnews.com/047596_Mediterranean_diet_metabolic_disorder_obesity.html

(6) http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2014/10/14/cmaj.140764

(7) http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/healthy-eating/4-reasons-to-eat-low-gi-foods

(8) https://www.usana.com/media/File/Prospecting%20page/Tools/US/Optimizers/EN%20drStrand-low.pdf

(9) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/20/epigenetics-offers-new-approaches-to-degenerative-disease.aspx

Originally posted on chrispoorten.com