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GLYCEMIC LOAD.  What Is It And How Does It Differ From The Glycemic Index?

By Dr. Keith E. Lewis
June 26, 2008


To determine glycemic load and using it as a means to better manage your blood sugar levels, the following formula is used:  Glycemic load equals the GI value (GI index) x the number of carbohydrates per serving divided by 100. This gives us the glycemic load.

The term glycemic load was developed by researchers at Harvard University.  The glycemic load helps us predict what the effect of a particular carbohydrate food will be on our blood glucose level after consuming that food. The glycemic load is the greatest for those foods containing the most carbohydrate, like rice and spaghetti for example, especially when eaten in large quantities.

Because both the amount and the type of carbohydrate are needed to predict blood glucose responses to a meal, we need to combine and describe the two, which is what the glycemic load does do. In other words, the glycemic index in itself provides us great information, but in terms of practical application in ingesting particular type of foods, it really does not do much for us in terms of determining the quantity of food to ingest. The glycemic load does take into account the number of grams of carbohydrate per serving as well as the glycemic index and gives us a practical tool that we can actually utilize in real life experience in making better choices for food intake.

What this all boils down to is this: Once we understand the glycemic index, what quantity of that particular food will have the least effect on spiking blood sugar levels; so once we determine what foods we want to ingest, the practical application in our diet is much easier once we determine what the glycemic load is.

We do have tables available of hundreds of different foods that list their glycemic index as well as their glycemic load and portion size. If you truly do want to lose weight, you want to feel better, if you are diabetic, and you want to better manage your blood sugar levels, if you are a patient who has cardiovascular risk or cardiovascular disease, this certainly is a program for you.

In terms of food intake, ideally if you want to lose weight, you want to keep your glycemic load to 40 or less per day. We recommend, at our office, to eat six meals per day, to graze on food throughout the course of your day, so naturally you can vary your glycemic load per meal.  However, you should keep it at 40 or less per day.
If you are relatively healthy and you do not have weight issues, 50 per day is certainly a healthy glycemic load intake per day. The beauty of this program with this system of food intake is that now and then you can cheat, you can eat high glycemic index or high glycemic load index foods. However, you know what you can maximize during the day. Again, 40 if you are intending to lose weight.

When you become a better student at reading food labels, certainly you will be able to better understand what a serving size is, but you will also be able to analyze all the other foods that you eat. For example, foods that can contain no carbohydrate, that are composed entirely of protein or fat, which would include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, etc., have a glycemic load of 0 and are consequently not part of this chart.

We have found that patients who participate in a low-glycemic load diet actually do not go hungry. They actually do get to enjoy foods they love and at the same time do not feel hungry.

The following are some of the positive benefits that you will expect to feel once you are involved in a glycemic load diet.  One, you notice greater energy. You will not be nearly as tired. Oftentimes, patients who had previously said I am as tired when I wake up in the morning as when I go to bed at night, all of a sudden wake up feeling energetic. They are alert. They are wide awake. They are ready for their day. You will also notice benefits of your skin tone. Better skin as in better complexion, better skin tone, and better color. You will also notice mentally you feel different. Oftentimes, patients report feeling less depression, less anxiety.

Low glycemic load diets typically increase the production of serotonin in our brains which gives us a feeling of well being and at the same time losing weight. We also noticed patients involved in a low-glycemic load diet seem to handle stress better. It seems to better manage cortisol production by our adrenal glands which are stress-handling glands and overall health is improved. Lower the risk of other disease processes that are directly influenced by inflammation and high blood sugar levels. The result being decreased incidents of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and possible stroke.


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