Glycemic Education

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Chances are, you’ve heard of the glycemic index. This system of food classification — which assigns each food a value based on how much, and how quickly, it raises the blood glucose level — is mentioned frequently in the diabetes media as a way to improve blood glucose control. But is the glycemic index described in a way that makes it easy for people to incorporate into their lives? And what exactly will using it accomplish? Not knowing how to use the glycemic index to guide meal choices, or what benefits these choices will have, can make the glycemic index more of an abstract concept than a useful tool to many people with diabetes.

This may help explain why a recent study sought to explore the effects of glycemic index education on people with Type 2 diabetes. As described in an article on, the study randomly assigned some participants to take nine weekly sessions of education on the glycemic index; the other participants attended no sessions during these weeks. After this period, participants who attended the sessions were found to have adopted a lower-glycemic-index diet, and to have better blood glucose control as well as a lower body weight and a smaller waist size. They had lost, on average, 5.1 pounds and had an average after-meal blood glucose level 18 mg/dl lower than before. Nine weeks after finishing the education sessions, the first group maintained these benefits.

Diabetes and nutrition experts have often expressed conflicting opinions regarding how practical it is to teach about the glycemic index, given the complexity of the subject and the lack of research showing significant benefits from such education. This study suggests that the benefits can, in fact, be important — although it is still unclear whether this is the best use, in terms of proven benefits, of nine weeks of diabetes education.

Do you feel you received enough information about the glycemic index in your diabetes education? Have you had success using the glycemic index to improve blood glucose control or to lose weight? Is the glycemic index too confusing or frustrating, in your experience, to use effectively, or are these concerns unwarranted? Leave a comment below!

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