New Dietary Guidelines From the American Diabetes Association Address Glycemic Index

Mar 25, 2002, 00:00 ET from United States Potato Board

    DENVER, March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- With 16 million Americans currently
 suffering from diabetes and millions more at risk, the American Diabetes
 Association (ADA) has updated its dietary guidelines not only to help those
 with diabetes manage their condition, but also to help those at risk prevent
 or delay the onset of this dangerous disease.  The 2002 guidelines are based
 on an exhaustive review of nearly 700 scientific articles and are presented in
 a format that distinguishes recommendations based on the strength of the
 scientific evidence behind them.
     Among other things, the guidelines address the usefulness of the glycemic
 index in managing and/or preventing diabetes.  The glycemic index, or GI, is a
 measurement of the effect that a food has on blood sugar.  Specifically, the
 ability of a food to raise blood sugar level within 2 to 3 hours after eating.
 Some dietitians have used GI as a tool for developing meal plans for diabetes
 and weight loss for many years.  GI pertains primarily to dietary
 carbohydrates, rather than protein or fats.
     After an extensive review of the literature, the ADA concluded that, for
 people with diabetes, the total amount of carbohydrate in meals and snacks,
 rather than the type, determines the blood sugar (glycemic) response.
     There is a great deal of confusion regarding the concept of the glycemic
 index, a term that is increasingly appearing in media coverage of popular diet
 books, as well as in discussions of national health issues such as diabetes,
 obesity and heart disease.  "I am pleased the American Diabetes Association
 report examined the evidence on the issue of the glycemic index," commented
 Ann Coulston, MS, RD, Nutrition Consultant.  "There is a lot of
 misunderstanding about GI and it is easy to misuse the concept."
     "For example, some people use it inappropriately to malign wholesome foods
 such as potatoes and rice.  In fact, there is no data showing any adverse
 effect from eating these starches, which are staples of the diet not only in
 America but in much of the world," Coulston said.
     In examining all the existing research on the effects of high glycemic
 index diets versus low glycemic index diets in type 2 diabetes, the ADA found
 that in the vast majority of studies, a high GI diet had no adverse effect on
 measures of blood glucose or blood lipids (e.g. cholesterol).  Conversely, a
 low GI diet provided no convincing evidence of long-term benefit.  Type 2
 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, where the body either does not
 produce enough insulin or the cells ignore insulin.  Insulin is necessary for
 the body to be able to use glucose.
     Anne Daly, President of Health Care and Education for the ADA, explained,
 "Glycemic response has been shown to depend on many factors.  Any carbohydrate
 can be part of a mixed meal, even sugar.  The total dietary pattern and the
 total amount of carbohydrate is more important than the individual GI of any
 single food."
     The recommendations provided in the ADA Guidelines are consistent with
 nutrition recommendations from all other major organizations, including the
 United States Department of Agriculture, the American Heart Association, the
 National Cholesterol Education Program, the American Institute for Cancer
 Research and the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation
 and Treatment of High Blood Pressure:  to eat plenty of whole grains, fruits
 and vegetables and to replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and
 omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.  Such eating patterns have been shown in dozens
 of studies to reduce risk for major chronic diseases.
     These new ADA Guidelines are designed to achieve the following goals for
 diabetic individuals:  1. maintain blood glucose levels in the normal range;
 2. maintain a blood lipid profile that reduces risk of cardiovascular disease;
 3. maintain healthy blood pressure levels; 4. prevent and treat obesity; and
 5. promote healthy food choices and physical activity.
     For people who do not have diabetes but may be at risk, the ADA encourages
 increased physical activity along with the same dietary pattern.  This winning
 combination of nutrition and exercise may aid in weight loss, which is the
 leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes in the U.S.
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SOURCE United States Potato Board