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Issue 180 Item 4 Glycemic Index Gaining Acceptance as Useful Dietary Tool

Information Presented at American Dietetic Association Meeting Identifies Potential Benefits & New Uses.

The glycemic index may be a beneficial tool in food selection and meal planning, according to leading health experts who explored the issues and scientific research related to the glycemic index at the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Exhibition (FNCE).

The glycemic index or GI – one of the most talked about topics in nutrition today – ranks foods based on the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels over a 2 hour period. Foods with a low GI can result in a modest rise and fall in blood sugar, which helps provide lasting energy.

The FNCE session entitled Emerging Role of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Response: A Useful Tool? featured Patti Geil, MS, RD, Author and Certified Diabetes Educator; Thomas Wolever, MD, PhD, internationally renowned expert in carbohydrates and diabetes; and Professor of Nutritional Sciences and Medicine at the University of Toronto; and David Grotto, RD, LD, ADA Spokesperson and Director of Nutrition Education at the Block Medical Center in Evanston, IL. The session was co-sponsored by
The Balance Bar Company.

While the glycemic impact of a food has been a topic of research for more than 20 years, it has only recently emerged as a potential tool for consumer use.

"Growing evidence suggests that moderating the glycemic response of foods may have important health implications. "A thorough review and objective interpretation of the scientific literature can enable nutrition professionals to offer appropriate recommendations and practical applications for the general public."

One of the pioneers in the development of the GI, Wolever presented an in-depth overview of the scientific evidence related to GI. "While more research is needed, diets with a low GI have been associated with potential health benefits, particularly for active and health-conscious individuals," said Wolever. "Many other countries around the world have already adopted or are adopting GI as a valuable tool when developing dietary guidelines. "

Grotto outlined science-based messages for communicating appropriate use of GI. He also identified strategies for educating both consumers and health professionals when using GI as a potential tool for nutrition education.

"Increasingly, health professionals are incorporating messages about the glycemic index and putting emphasis on low GI foods when counseling patients," Grotto said. "While GI shouldn’t be the only factor when evaluating foods, it can be an additional tool for planning a nutritious diet."

In his presentation, Grotto suggested the following messages for registered dietitians to use when counseling patients about the glycemic index:

— GI can be a useful tool when planning a healthy diet, but should not be the sole guide. Using general dietary recommendations found in the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans can provide additional assurance of nutritional adequacy.

— Cultural differences and dietary preferences should be considered when determining individual dietary strategies and the role of the GI.

— Individuals should not limit food choices to only low glycemic response foods when planning a healthy diet.

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