Using the Glycemic Index for Weight Loss Without Hunger

The glycemic index (GI) is a system of rating carbohydrate foods according to the effect they have on blood sugar levels of volunteers. The GI score of a food reflects what actually happens to the blood sugar level of real people when they eat that food.

Testing the effect of various carbohydrates on blood sugar levels was first done in the 1980s by Dr. David Jenkins at the University of Toronto in Canada. He tested the effect of a large number of foods on blood sugar levels of many human volunteers, both normal and diabetic. This testing became standardized and led to the development of the glycemic index.

The glycemic index has been clinically proven to be useful in its application to diabetes, weight loss, appetite control, and coronary health. [1] It is used in Australia, Canada, the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, and other countries. Unfortunately, the United States medical establishment remains officially opposed to the glycemic index. [2]

Glycemic index testing results have corrected a common misconception that all starches are "good" complex carbohydrates and sugars are all "bad." Actually, some types of rice have a GI score that is higher than pure glucose and have a more major effect on our blood sugar level. White sugar falls in the intermediate range with a GI score of 68. This is because each sucrose molecule is made of two single sugars, one glucose and one fructose. The fructose must be processed into glucose by the liver, thus slowing the release of glucose from that half of the sucrose molecule into the bloodstream. The GI score of a food cannot be predicted from whether it contains simple or complex carbohydrates or from the scores of foods in the same food category. For example, fruits have a wide range of GI scores; grains have a similar wide range.

Glycemic index scores for foods are determined using the test results from pure glucose as a reference food and comparing the results from glucose to the results from the test food. For standard glycemic index testing, eight to ten volunteers are given a dose of 50 grams of pure glucose. Their blood is drawn and blood sugar levels are measured periodically over the next two hours. For each volunteer these blood test results are plotted on a graph of blood sugar level versus time, and the area under the curve of the graph is calculated. The test is repeated on two or three occasions and the results are averaged. Then, at another time, the volunteer eats a portion of the test food which contains 50 grams of carbohydrate. For example, if bread is the test food, he will each eat about 3½ slices of bread. The blood sugar levels are again tested over a two-hour period, plotted on a graph, and the area under the curve of the graph is calculated. This area is divided by that volunteer's average result when glucose was tested and the result of the division is multiplied by 100. The number obtained is the approximate GI score of the test food. This number is averaged with the results obtained for the other volunteers to calculate the GI score for the food tested. These GI tests for various foods have been shown to be reproducible in testing done in many countries around the world. The values obtained are reproducibly the same for both healthy volunteers and diabetics; however, diabetics have their blood drawn for a three hour period after the test meal rather than for two hours.

To control spikes and dips in blood sugar and weight-depositing insulin spikes or chronically high insulin levels, it is best to choose most carbohydrates in the diet from those that are low on the glycemic index with a GI score of 55 or less. Foods with an intermediate score of 56 to 69 can be eaten in moderation. For best blood sugar and insulin control, high GI foods with scores of 70 or above should be eaten only occasionally. To find out the GI scores of foods, see the GI scores table in Healing Basics.

There are ways to enjoy favorite high-GI foods more often by preparing them with a healthier recipe that results in a moderate or even low glycemic impact. The development of enzyme-treated stevia, which does not have the potent licorice-like aftertaste that stevia used to have, makes this much easier. It can be heated, unlike some chemically made non-nutritive sweeteners, and is a great way to make sweet treats with a lower glycemic impact.

All high carbohydrate foods should be eaten at the same time as a balancing serving of a protein food. The very sensible, balanced diet in The Insulin Resistance Diet by Dr. Cheryle Hart, MD and Mary Kay Grossman, RD links each carbohydrate unit containing 15 grams of carbohydrate with a protein unit containing 7 grams of protein. [3] The various Zone diets, which are more restrictive, allow 9 grams of carbohydrate for each 7 grams of protein. [4] The amount of protein required to balance carbohydrate can vary from person to person. It you are having cravings for sweets in spite of balancing carbohydrates with proteins, you may want to limit your carbohydrate intake to one 15-gram unit per meal or snack consumed with at least two units (14 grams) of protein and see if that helps. If you still have cravings for sweets after a few weeks, you may have Candidiasis. Click here for more about this condition.

In addition to the glycemic index score of a meal or food, the quantity eaten also determines the impact the meal or food has on blood sugar and insulin levels. If you eat two cups of cooked pasta, it will have about twice the effect of eating one cup of pasta, or twice the glycemic load.

Using the glycemic index to choose what you eat can help you not to over-stimulate the pancreas which would produce a spike of insulin after a meal or snack. This keeps insulin levels stable and low throughout the course of the day, thus promoting the burning of stored fat rather than the formation and storage of new fat from foods recently eaten. Instead, recently eaten food is used for the immediate energy needs of daily activities. Thus, if your insulin is low and stable, you will use both fat stores and your last meal to produce energy and may notice that you have more energy and are less hungry that you were before you began an eating plan based on glycemic control.

For more information, go to www.foodallergyandglutenfree
or read Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss. You do not have to be on an allergy or gluten-free diet to benefit from the information in these sources. The book contains a chapter of wheat and dairy-containing recipes for normal-diet individuals who will also enjoy the special diet recipes.


[1] Brand-Miller, Jennie, PhD, Thomas Wolever, MD, Kay Foster-Powell. MND, and Stephen Colaguiri, MD., The New Glucose Revolution, (New York: Marlowe and Company, 2003), 31. Also and
[2] Brand-Miller, et al., 30.
[3] Hart, Cheryle R., MD and Mary Kay Grossman, RD, The Insulin Resistance Diet, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001, 2007), 64.
[4] Sears, Barry, PhD, Mastering the Zone, (New York, Regan Books, 1997), 30-35, 331.