In a new study from the University of Toronto, researchers found for people with diabetes, sticking to a low glycemic diet results in small but important improvements in blood sugar levels, cholesterol, weight and other risk factors.
These improvements were seen over and above existing drug or insulin therapy.
This suggests that a low glycemic diet might be especially helpful as add-on treatment to help those with diabetes better achieve their targets.
The glycemic index (GI) rates how quickly different foods affect blood sugar levels.
Research has shown that low-GI foods, such as vegetables, most fruits, pulses and whole grains, can help keep blood sugar levels steady and reduce the risk of heart disease in people with diabetes.
A low GI or GL (glycemic load) diet is therefore recommended for people with diabetes by clinical guidelines across the world.
However, the last European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) guidelines were published over 15 years ago and several trials have been published since then.
In the study, the team aimed to summarize the effect of low GI/GL dietary patterns on blood sugar control and other known risk factors in diabetes to help inform the update of the EASD guidelines for nutrition treatment.
Their results are based on 27 studies published up to May 2021 about the effect of diets with low GI/GL in diabetes for three or more weeks.
These studies involved a total of 1,617 participants with type 1 or 2 diabetes, who were mainly middle-aged, overweight or obese with moderately controlled type 2 diabetes treated with drugs or insulin.
The team found that low-GI/GL dietary patterns were linked to small but clinically meaningful reductions in blood sugar levels (HbA1c) compared with higher-GI/GL control diets.
They also found decreases in fasting glucose (blood sugar levels after a period of fasting), LDL cholesterol, body weight, and C-reactive protein (a chemical associated with inflammation), but not blood insulin levels, HDL cholesterol, waist circumference, or blood pressure.
The team says the findings show that low GI/GL dietary patterns are acceptable and safe dietary strategies that can benefit people with diabetes.
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The study is published in The BMJ. One author of the study is Laura Chiavaroli.
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