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Low-Glycemic Index Diet for Diabetes

Glycemic Index Diet Emphasizes ‘Good Carbs’

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

The low-glycemic-index dieters in the study ate plenty of legumes, peas, lentils, nuts, barley, oatmeal, pasta, and rice that were boiled briefly. They also ate low-glycemic-index breads, including pumpernickel, rye, and breads made with quinoa and flaxseed.

The foods were also paired with an eye toward keeping the post-meal blood sugar spike low. Pasta was often served with legumes, for example.

The other group of dieters ate more traditional carbohydrates including whole-grain breads and breakfast cereals, brown rice, and potatoes with skins on.

In addition:

  • Both groups of dieters limited saturated fats, trans fats, and white flour.
  • They were told to avoid pancakes, muffins, doughnuts, white bread, bagels, rolls, cookies, cakes, popcorn, french fries, and chips.
  • Both groups also ate five servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit a day, but the low-GI dieters avoided tropically grown fruits like mangos, bananas, and pineapple, which tend to have higher GI scores.

The 210 study participants were all taking drugs to control their diabetes and most were overweight or obese.

At the end of six months, both groups had lost about the same amount of weight. But the low-glycemic-index dieters saw more improvement in blood sugar control and heart disease risk factors than the other dieters.

Jenkins acknowledges that the difference was modest, but he adds that the findings show that the low-glycemic-index diet can help diabetic people who are highly motivated.

"This diet is not a diet for everyone, but for the person who is motivated to keep their diabetes under control, this is a good strategy," Jenkins says.

Nutrition educator Emmy Suhl of Boston's Joslin Diabetes Center agrees, but she says getting most people with type 2 diabetes to stick to a low-glycemic-index diet would be difficult.

"Diabetes is epidemic and this is a low-cost approach to treating it," she tells WebMD. "The improvement they saw (in blood sugar control) was not that great, but every little bit helps. And this had the added benefit of having some reduction in cardiac risk factors."

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