Monday, September 29, 2008

Low-glycemic foods make their way into the U.S. market

Add one more label to the list consumers are increasingly being asked to parse: This one declares food items as "low glycemic," and refers to a food's effects on blood sugar levels. Low-glycemic diets have become popular in England and Australia, based on studies that suggest they could help manage diabetes and prevent heart disease and obesity, and they're now making headway here in the U.S. 

The idea that a low-glycemic diet could improve health -- namely by stabilizing blood sugar and thus preventing overeating -- originated with researchers at the University of Toronto in the 1980s and has been most extensively developed (and promoted) by scientists at the University of Sydney in Australia.

The thinking behind the diet is easily summarized: different carbohydrates are metabolized differently in the human body. Some are digested slowly, causing relatively modest, gradual changes in blood sugar levels. Others, meanwhile, are quickly digested and cause blood sugar to peak and plummet rapidly and dramatically after a meal -- and hunger to set in again quickly. 

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