Low Glycaemic Load Diet Cuts Risks Of Diabetes And Cardiovascular Disease

| January 30, 2014

When I started to contribute to The Real Diabetes Truth, more than two years ago, one of my very first posts was about diet and diabetes. In it, I explained that diet is the best tool you have for keeping your blood sugar stable and your need for insulin low – and that the way to do it is through a low glycaemic load eating plan. At the time, a huge European study involving almost 38,000 people had just shown a clear link between glycaemic load and the risk of developing diabetes.

Since then, the low glycaemic load message has gradually been gaining impetus and it was recently boosted by the publication of a ‘meta-analysis’ of 24 separate studies into glycaemic load and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. This kind of analysis is important because differences in the way studies are designed and the groups of people investigated (sex, ethnicity, age etc.) can mean that their results don’t always agree. And when studies don’t all say the same thing, the dinosaurs in the medical establishment can sit back complacently and trot out their favourite mantra: ‘more research is needed’.

The meta-analysis revealed that 97 per cent of the variation in results from these individual studies could be explained by differences in the sex or ethnicity of the patients, or by the way in which glycaemic load was assessed. When these variations were taken into account, all the studies showed exactly the same thing – eating a low glycaemic load diet significantly reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. What is more, a clear ‘dose-response relationship’ became apparent, in other words diabetes risk increases in direct proportion to the glycaemic load of the diet.

The conclusions of a meta-analysis of this kind, which was carried out by Oxford University and the University of California, Los Angeles, should make the medical fraternity sit up and take notice. And when a second, independent meta-analysis comes up with similar findings, it should be time to accept that the traditional advice for diabetics to load up on carbohydrates isn’t just wrong, it is downright dangerous.

This second meta-analysis looked at the impact of various diets on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes. It showed that low-carbohydrate, low-GI, Mediterranean and high-protein diets all led to greater improvements in blood sugar control and markers of cardiovascular risk than the control diets used. This study also revealed that the standard diabetes diets promoted by European and American diabetes authorities (the low-fat, high-carb kind) did nothing to improve either blood sugar levels or cardiovascular risks. No surprises there, then!

So, what official advice do people with diabetes currently get? Diabetes UK makes a nod in the low glycaemic load direction by saying ‘Choose carbohydrates that are more slowly absorbed (that is, lower glycaemic load) as these won’t affect your blood glucose levels as much and they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer.’ But their website still recommends that starchy foods (bread, rice, potatoes and pasta) should be eaten at every meal and that these should make up one third of the total diet.

How to take charge of your diet and your health

It is clearly time to take matters into your own hands. Following a low glycaemic load diet will allow you to take control of your blood sugar levels, reduce your risk of heart disease and also help you to lose weight and get your blood pressure down if you need to. Here are 10 key principles to stick to:

• Avoid products made with added sugar.

• Cut out white bread, potatoes, pasta and white rice; go easy on fruit juices.

• For carbohydrates choose oats, rye, barley and quinoa instead of wheat.

• Eat berries, oranges and apples instead of bananas and other sweet fruits.

• Increase your intake of fresh vegetables, especially green, leafy ones.

• Include pulses (e.g. lentils, kidney beans, chick peas) in your diet.

• Eat some protein at every meal.

• Snack on nuts and seeds.

• Use olive oil, hemp seed oil or linseed oil in the kitchen.

• Eat oily fish two or three times a week.

You can find more information on low glycaemic load diets here and here:

Salmon, eggs and nuts are all healthy, low glycaemic load foods. Now, scientists in Denmark have discovered how arginine, an amino acid found abundantly in these foods, greatly improves the body’s ability to metabolise glucose. I’ll be telling you about these findings and the other health benefits or arginine in my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. Sluijs I, van der Schouw YT, van der A DL, Spijkerman AM, Hu FB, Grobbee DE, Beulens JW. Carbohydrate quantity and quality and risk of type 2 diabetes in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Netherlands (EPIC-NL) study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; 92(4):905-911.

2. Livesey G, Taylor R, Livesey H, Liu S. Is there a dose-response relation of dietary glycemic load to risk of type 2 diabetes? Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97(3):584-596

3. Ajala O, English P, Pinkney J. Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97(3):505-16.

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