Atkins Nutrionals breaks down the glycemic index

Filed under: Atkins Diet — Tags: — @ September 21, 2004

Atkins Nutrionals has sent out a press release that aims to explain the glycemic index and what it means for low-carb dieters:

A new research study from the Children’s Hospital in Boston, which was published in the British medical journal Lancet calls attention to the effectiveness of the glycemic index (GI) diet and further adds to the science which demonstrates that the principles of the Atkins Nutritional Approach work. Increasingly, consumers will begin to see foods labeled as low-glycemic or high-glycemic, a standard presently used in Europe and much of the rest of the world. Americans need to become more familiar with this concept.

Research about the glycemic index alone delivers only half the story. As far back as 1988, Dr. Atkins stressed the importance of considering the glycemic impact individual foods have on people. While this impact is important, Dr. Atkins knew that consideration of both foods’ glycemic index ranking and its glycemic load (explained below) were not the only reasons that the Atkins Nutritional Approach is so broadly successful.

The inclusion of protein and natural fats also provide benefits: Eating foods with both sufficient protein and natural fats, in concert with low glycemic impact foods, maintains blood sugar stability and signals fat burning. Neither glycemic impact nor eating protein and natural fat alone is the key to effectiveness. The Atkins Nutritional Approach combines all the necessary foods to control an individual’s metabolism.

The glycemic index tells us the impact of a fixed amount of carbohydrates on blood sugar, but it does not take into account the amount of carbs consumed in the typical portion. For example carrots, which have a high glycemic index, actually have minimal impact on blood sugar because the typical portion is 3 to 4 grams of net carbs (the amount in one carrot). For that reason, most nutritionists these days are looking at the far more sophisticated measure of blood sugar impact called the glycemic load, which factors in both the glycemic index and the amount of carbs typically consumed in a serving.

The glycemic index is reported on a scale of 0 to 100, making it easy to compare one food to another, but it does not provide a tangible, weight-based measure by which a consumer can make effective and healthy dietary choices. Foods and beverages are labeled on a per serving basis based on their respective weights/volumes, and nutrients are subsequently labeled using a similar weight-based system. The key weakness of the GI is that having a 0-100 index not corresponding to serving size provides little value to those consumers wishing to make dietary choices regarding foods and their resultant impact on blood glucose.

Dr. Atkins discussed the importance of the glycemic impact of foods in Atkins for Life, published in early 2003 shortly before his death. Knowing it was too complicated for most people to use as a tool in selecting foods, he came up with a simplified approach that is easy to use: The Atkins Glycemic Ranking (AGR) combines the research findings from the glycemic load and glycemic index.

Dr. Atkins created the AGR because he knew that a diet based on the glycemic index alone is ineffective and a fundamentally limited diet. He recognized that an approach that fails to address the amount of food that produces the rise in blood sugar tells only half of the story. Such an approach may work in a laboratory study of rats, but for people, it does not provide the tools necessary to make informed decisions about food.

Atkins has always been a low-glycemic nutritional approach, but a more balanced, comprehensive, satisfying and healthy approach for individuals to achieve their weight loss goals and maintain their weight loss in the long term, an approach that includes consideration for the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods.


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