Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

What Does Glycemic Index 'Load' Mean?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012 09:09 AM

If the glycemic "index" for a food is high but the glycemic "load" is low, does that mean the negative effect of the high index value is lessened by the fact that the load is low? I don’t understand the “load” concept.

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Glycemic index and glycemic load are terms popular with consumers and marketing, but are not terms that most people can relate to. Let’s not confuse the issue. Fewer calories in equals less unused energy required to store in fat. More energy, if needed, is obtained by breaking down existing fat stores. Look at your calories consumed, and regard this as the figure to watch, and avoid being fooled by trendy terms that actually relate more to theory of appetite stimulation and diabetes.

In theory, products with a low glycemic index induce less peaking of insulin secretion than pure glucose, and have a more balanced effect. High insulin levels will induce appetite, and peaks of insulin will also stimulate appetite. The glycemic load refers to the total effect of the amount ingested factored by its glycemic index, and actually may underestimate the total carbohydrate intake.

It may be more useful for patients with diabetes who are having problems controlling their blood glucose values. Hence the negative effect of a high index is lessened by ingesting less (i.e. low load).

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