Since everyone with diabetes has trouble producing enough insulin to cover the blood glucose spikes resulting from high-GI and-high GL meals and snacks, the best way to effectively manage your diabetes is to control both the type and amount of carbohydrates that you consume. This is the technique that I always employ. In fact, in my experience, to have effective control over your BG levels, you absolutely have to avoid overloading with carbohydrates, particularly ones with higher GI values.
Along the same lines, you get hungry again more quickly after high-GL meals than after low-GI and -GL ones. This hunger may be the result of a drop in blood sugar levels due to the greater insulin release that typically follows a large glycemic load or a sustained rise in them if inadequate amounts of insulin are released by your pancreas in response to a meal like a big bowlful of mashed potatoes. When carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly, however, your sugars will stay more constant, usually leaving you feeling satiated longer. For most people, a low GI/GL diet plan results in weight loss as well.
You can improve your BG control by either decreasing your body’s need for insulin or improving your sensitivity to it. Elevated blood glucose levels, however, create a greater demand for insulin, which in turn constantly overworks your pancreas. Although beta cell insulin production declines as you age regardless of your ethnicity, it is not yet clear what causes the loss of beta cell function over time. Is it primarily due to the exhaustion of these cells caused by a constant state of overwork when insulin resistance is high (and higher-GI foods are eaten)? Does their function deteriorate due to the presence of toxic levels of glucose that directly damage them? Or, is it a combination of both of these processes? Whatever the cause, though, if you’re sedentary, overweight, pre-diabetic, and/or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a high-GI/GL diet will most likely exacerbate your insulin resistance and your body’s ability to supply enough insulin.
When selecting the best foods to eat, take into account the glycemic effect, the total carbohydrate content, and the nutrient density of your meals and snacks. It’s best to limit your intake of foods with both a high or medium GI value and a high GL. Any carbohydrate-rich meal (i.e., one with an overall high GL) will require the release of more insulin, but at least if the GI value is lower–as is generally the case with higher-fiber foods–the immediate rise in blood glucose will be lessened, and you will likely feel satisfied longer.
Some researchers have also shown that diets with high GI values are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women who have used hormone replacement therapy and who are not overweight. The association appears to be even stronger among those women who do not engage in vigorous physical activity. In men, high GL and sucrose intake are related to an elevated colorectal cancer risk. So, after hearing all this, are you positive that you still want to eat a high-GI/GL diet?
Next week, I’ll discuss more about the importance of fiber in your diet.