When you are faced in your daily life with the possibility of hypoglycemia, there is a useful concept for the control of sugar values: the glycemic index (GI).
The GI is a parameter that helps us to classify foods containing carbohydrates according to the impact they will have, once consumed, on the immediate values of blood glucose
How can the GI help us?
Our blood glucose levels increase when we eat a food that contains carbohydrates and it begins to be digested and absorbed by the body.
In response to this increase in blood glucose, the pancreas secretes insulin to store glucose and thus restore normal blood sugar levels.
Beforehand, we could say that the speed with which the level of blood glucose increases, also influences the amount of insulin that the pancreas secretes.
As we have said, each person responds differently to a diet and even more if he/she has some underlying disease. However, the GI can serve as a reference value to calculate the glycemic response of a food.
How is the glycemic index obtained?
The GI is obtained through a controlled laboratory test. It is performed with volunteers whose pancreas works properly (that is, they do not have congenital hyperinsulinism, diabetes, or any other type of disorder).
Volunteers ingest the food and they have their levels of blood sugar measured. It is then compared to the reference food: glucose, which has a given value of 100.
Since foods do not raise glucose levels the same level in all people, in order to determine the GI of the studied food, an average of the sugar values obtained is made.
The interpretation of the results is very simple: foods with a high GI imply rapid absorption and those of a low GI, a slower absorption.
It must be taken into account that the GI of the food is only an indicator. Not in vain there are studies that show that not everyone absorbs and metabolizes food the same. Hence, the increase in glucose can vary from one person to another.
In addition, foods are not usually taken alone, so it is very difficult to know what the GI value resulting from a particular meal will be.
How are foods classified according to their GI?
If you glimpse a little on the internet, you will see that the classifications between the different GI vary; this happens because different volunteers are used in the tests. As with everything in life, sometimes you have to use your head: the closer to 0, the lower the GI, and vice versa.
Glycemic index of different foods
Chart: Fundación para la Diabetes
Fats and proteins do not have GIs because they do not contain carbohydrates, but they influence on the absorption of foods, as well as on the secretion of insulin.
What if we eat foods with a high GI?
Our bodies are programmed to store energy that allows us to survive in periods of fasting or food shortages. Therefore, we have different energy stores, such as liver, adipose tissue (the “fat”) or muscles.
Foods with a high GI raise quickly our blood glucose levels. In response, the pancreas responds by secreting insulin in large quantities.
Thus, in meal planning it would be better to choose foods that have a low or medium GI and, if not, to balance the food with low-medium GI foods. Obviously, we are talking about normal situations, not those of hypoglycemia.
How the GI has been useful for us in managing Paula’s disease?
In congenital hyperinsulinism, every child is different. My daughter has a “partial” response to medication. As a result, Paula continues to suffer from recurrent hypoglycemia episodes and the best way to deal with them is to take care of her feeding.
In general, our bodies’ glucose levels rise rapidly when we consume food with a high GI. This in turn causes insulin to be secreted. The quicker the sugar rises, the more insulin you release. Hence, foods with a high GI might increase the risk of a rebound effect. Conversely, those foods with a low GI cause a much slower increase in our blood glucose levels; so the insulin release is also slower and blood glucose levels are maintained for longer.
However, this guidance is general. If you have doubts about the diet to follow, it is best to have an appointment with a nutritionist.
The English version includes information on 3770 foods. I do not think you will ever use so many foods at home! 😉
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