The Glycemic index is a shared table of figures that shows how specific foods affect blood sugar levels. To level the playing field between foods, the glycemic index uses 50 grams of carbohydrates from a particular food substance, and then monitors the subsequent rise in blood sugar. The baseline comparative figure is the effect of good ole? white bread, which is assigned the number 100. Therefore, if 50g of carbohydrate from a food raises blood sugar half as much as white bread, it scores a 50. Brown rice, which is whole, unrefined, and intact for example, scores a 51. Got it? Sort of?
This chart is looked at as the be all end all of blood sugar. Scientific dogma has been created around it, and the fact that potatoes raise blood sugar more than white bread incriminates potatoes as being a bigger contributor to hyperinsulinism and subsequent disorders. Data from the chart is considered incontrovertible ? like scientific fact set in stone. And as you might have already suspected from the subtle title of this episode, scientific data is only as smart as the monkey who set up the experiment.
The glycemic index is useful in that it can be used to actually calculate something of relevance, the actual effect of a type of carbohydrate food on blood sugar. The table itself has led many to silly conclusions that my body, and subsequently my brain begs to differ with.
Flaw Numero Uno ?
Food density is not taken into account! This is unbelievable! The Glycemic index of a Snickers bar is 59, while that of pumpkin is 107 (remember the higher the number, the more radical the blood sugar spike). To obtain 50 grams of carbohydrate from a Snickers bar, you must eat about .2 pounds of it. To get the same amount of carbohydrate from pumpkin you must eat 1.8 pounds. To put these two foods on a level playing field, you must equate the portion sizes, which the glycemic index does not do. If you equated the two, then the Snickers would score 531 compared to pumpkin’s 107. This is much more accurate and one reason why when you’re really tired and hungry Snickers satisfies and pumpkin just don’t git r? done.
This flaw alone makes the glycemic index, as it stands, misleading and in some cases meaningless. In other words, doo doo.
Flaw Numero Dos ?
As if that wasn’t enough to annihilate the premise of the glycemic index, the gylcemic index also doesn’t measure the insulin response in comparison to the blood sugar rise. This is incredibly important because the root problem is excreting too much insulin in comparison to blood sugar. As mentioned in previous posts, it is the oversecretion of insulin which is the problem. It is a problem because the insulin binds with the sugar, and the leftover excess insulin binds with other sugars, and the result is low blood sugar, cravings, increased hunger shortly after eating, and the vicious one-way trip to planet Chubslug ? the planet where everyone has a metabolic disorder and increasingly bipolar tendencies.
I’m looking at a table in Terry Shintani’s The Good Carbohydrate Revolution labeled ?Glycemic Index vs. Insulin Response. How handy is that, and why haven’t I stumbled across this in the last 71 books that I’ve read? Seriously, where were you on that one Taubes? What are the foods that cause an oversecretion of insulin in response to the rise in blood sugar? Wouldn’t you know it, out of the 10 foods listed, the winners, ranked in order below, are?
Breads are neck in neck in terms of blood sugar vs. insulin response, with whole wheat being a little better than white.
And the winners, the stabilizing foods that allow you to have more blood sugar, the ones that sustain you between meals instead of drying up your glucose I.V., keeping you from crashing and acting like a drug addict are none other than:
Whole intact grains
Pasta (discussed in last week’s post as a better alternative to bread)
Grain bread (meaning truly whole grain and coarsely ground)
What Shintani has done is similar to what others have tried in calculating ?glycemic load. He calls it the ?Carbohydrate Quotient,? and it puts foods that cause head-scratching when looking at the glycemic index back in their place. The most desirable carbohydrates are therefore legumes, whole intact grains, root vegetables, and yes? corn, potatoes, and pumpkin are right there with them instead of flying high above table sugar like they do on the standard glycemic index.
Forgive me if I’m losing anyone, but in several books by seemingly intelligent people I’ve read something like this: ‘table sugar, surprisingly isn’t really that bad. It actually absorbs more slowly than corn and potatoes. Oh okay, that makes sense. That’s why, when you’re a kid and you’ve got a major sweet tooth you topple over the candy aisle trying to get to the corn on the cob; why you throw your Frosty in the garbage once you see Wendy’s amazingly tantalizing baked potato bar (by the way corn and potato chips are a totally different story, registering at nearly 3 times the absorption rate of whole corn and potatoes).
Flaw Numero Tres –
The final flaw is a simple one. The glycemic index doesn’t take satiety (fullness) into consideration or the speed at which you can woof down a food. Try consuming 1,000 calories of dry baked potato vs. 1,000 calories of Coke. It’s not fair to even compare the two.
In conclusion, here’s a little corn and potato anecdote?
The Pima Indians of southern Arizona are legendary for their phenomenal fatness and type II diabetes. If having a metabolic disorder and being overweight was a sport, and the Pima of Arizona were a team, they?d be the Patriots (correction: Giants). They eat a typical American diet of sugar, refined grain, processed foods, lots of meat, and vegetable-based fats including trans fats (potentially as big of a contributor to insulin resistance as anything).
Just across the border lives the rest of their posse, and guess what? They have no diabetes or weight issues to speak of. They might have the same genes, but there ain’t no dietary trigger. And of course, just to really rub things in, the skinny little amigos eat mostly corn and potatoes, villainous perpetrators of blood-sugar soaring according to the Stupidemic Index.
It’s just more real, observational, not-to-be-confused-with-scientific-shenanigans evidence that real food has a hell of a time causing illness. Modern foods? Cheap foods? It really doesn’t take much to catapult a genetically sensitive person (like someone of Native American descent, and perhaps you) into troubled waters. Unless your name is Don Gorske, you better watch out.