Glycemic Index: What’s the Catch?

If you’ve done your research on prediabetes and diabetes, you’ve most likely come across information regarding the Glycemic Index (GI). Ranking carbohydrates by the effect they have on the average person’s blood glucose levels, the Glycemic Index provides ratings for all foods containing carbohydrates and sugar. While the creation of this system has undoubtedly been a positive development, the diet recommendations are limited in their objectivity, and fail to address several key factors that also affect the rise and fall of blood sugar levels. 

Below, we’ll examine the pros and cons of the Glycemic Index, and compare it with the pros and cons of personalized nutrition plans. Diet changes are integral to treating and preventing prediabetes and diabetes, and the proper diet has a profound influence on whether individuals can continue to live a healthy, symptom-free life. To embrace treatment measures with proven results, it’s integral that individuals understand how digestion works, heeding the science to give themselves the best chance of treating their condition effectively. 

Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index uses three tiers to measure a food’s effect on blood sugar levels. With a measurement of 55 or less, the food is considered to have a “low” GI, inferring that it’s digested slowly, causing a lower blood sugar spike. With a measurement of 55-69, the GI is considered “moderate”. With a measurement of 70 or more, the food is considered to have a “high” GI and should be avoided. 

Pros. If you’re trying to monitor your diet to ensure more balanced blood sugar levels, having an index to measure the impact of the foods you eat is important, and provides many individuals with an opportunity to begin addressing their diet for the first time. 

Cons. Studies have shown that different individuals can eat the same exact meal and have highly varying blood sugar responses. Without taking into account an individual’s gut microbiome and other lifestyle factors, the Glycemic Index gives you an idea of how a food might affect you, but doesn’t go far enough into addressing how gut microbiome, food combinations, and activity level of the individual will affect their digestion. 

Personalized Nutrition 

Nutrition and diet recommendations are a huge part of our society today, with millions of people seeking to target their physical appearance, treat diseases or imbalances, and simply live a healthier life. The problem, however, is that most well-marketed plans advertise themselves as cure-alls that work for everyone, regardless of the factors listed above. 

Personalized nutrition plans, when based on factors such as the personal gut microbiome, allow individuals to observe how certain foods do and do not cause blood glucose spikes. This prevents them from needlessly avoiding foods that may be harmful for others, and to target food combinations that they can enjoy and feel confident eating. 

Pros. With gut microbiome science advancing drastically in the past twenty years, we now have the ability to create personalized nutrition plans that are based on the unique digestive processes of every individual. Personalized nutrition can be as diverse as necessary and has no set parameters or objectivized rating system. Focusing on the microbiome’s reaction to certain food groups, individuals can confidently embrace the foods that work for them, knowing that individualized testing has shown proven results.

Cons. If a personalized nutrition plan isn’t based on science, individuals risk a wide range of pitfalls, including the worsening of the condition they’re trying to treat. This can happen when nutritionists attempt to infer that their personal dietary ideologies work for everyone, or try to adhere to an individual’s likes or dislikes. Nutrition is a multi-faceted, highly complex system that’s about more than just building muscle and looking thin. 

So, What’s Better? 

The Glycemic Index has helped individuals address how certain food groups may have a greater effect on their blood sugar, but the rating system has inherent flaws that can prove costly. By not addressing how food combinations and the individual gut microbiome affect digestion, adhering to a diet of “low” GI foods can still result in abnormal blood glucose spikes that put additional stress on the body and limit its ability to regulate insulin. 

If you’re attempting to manage diabetic blood sugar levels, keep prediabetes from advancing, or simply prevent the possibility of becoming diabetic, adhering solely to the Glycemic Index offers few guarantees. Based on the bare minimum of scientific data, the Glycemic Index should be regarded as a step in the right direction for addressing diabetes, but not as a viable treatment method moving forward. 

Personalized nutrition plans based on the gut microbiome have proven to successfully manage blood sugar levels in a wide range of unique individuals. There’s no debating the science behind this type of personalized nutrition, and seeing personal results is simply a matter of committing to the program that’s specialized based on your DNA and microbiome. 

We’ve all been susceptible to diet trends that seem to offer quick results, but stop working over time or simply fail to address whole body health and nutrition needs. In the age of infomercials and celebrity-endorsed diets, these trends came and went while diabetes diagnoses continued to rise. With newer technologies and advanced knowledge, individuals can now do their own research and embrace a personalized nutrition plan that works, managing blood sugar levels to prevent the onset of diabetes and its dangerous side effects to live a happier, healthier life. 

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