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Reviewed by Kathy Empen on June 10, 2012


David Ludwig, MD Director, Children's Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Children’s Hospital Boston

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Narrator: What does high glycemic mean?

David Ludwig, MD : Well the glycemic index, or high glycemic foods is a way of describing how food affects blood sugar. Blood sugar is really at the center of our body's biology, and so we've designed very elaborate systems to control blood sugar in a very narrow range. That works beautifully under most circumstances, certainly eating the kinds of foods that humans have evolved to eat through hundreds of thousands of years. Unfortunately, our bodies blood sugar control systems tend to be stressed to their limit by so called high glycemic foods. The problem is that what goes up, must come down. And a few hours after eating a bagel with fat-free cream cheese or a bowl of Rice Crispies with fat free milk, blood sugar crashes to levels below where they started with. And how does somebody with crashing blood sugar feel? Well, they probably have difficulty concentrating in school and sitting still, you know, I sometimes wonder whether the rise in Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder um which parallels the obesity epidemic and the invasion of children's diets with all these processed carbohydrates, whether that's all related. But another way that children feel with low blood sugar is hungry. That's the natural way the brain attempts to correct blood sugar, by driving us to eat, and we, one of the first studies that we did in the area, gave adolescents, overweight adolescents, um identical meals, differing in glycemic index. And we found that kids who got the high glycemic meal at 6 or 700 calories more than they did after the low glycemic meal, even though all of the meals had the same calories initially. So combining healthy fats with slow acting carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, and bringing in a little bit of protein to balance it out, it's the difference between on a cold winter night, burning a nice old seasoned log that keeps you warm all night, or a newspaper, that flares up into a big fire, but then leaves you cold, a few minutes later.

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