How the Glycemic Index Affects Body Weight

Studying the Glycemic Index to control body weight

The Glycemic Index or GI is a scale that measures how well the body can convert sugars and starch into fuel for the body. The lower a food’s GI is, the better the body breaks down the molecular food structure and makes them absorbable carbohydrates for the brain and muscle tissue.

Sugars are generally considered simple carbohydrates, and starch is a complex carbohydrate. Digestive enzymes (“Food As Medicine for the Family,” pgs.32-35) in the small intestines break down the gel slicing the glucose links in many places to create smaller and smaller chains. Eventually, digestive enzymes mince the whole thing into single molecules of glucose. The intestinal wall cannot easily absorb even short chains of two or three glucose links, so they must be broken down into single glucose units for the body to absorb the carbohydrates. Those links that the brain and muscle tissue cannot absorb are turned into stored fat.

With glucose being the primary fuel for the brain and muscles, the body craves them and produces low blood sugar levels when it is needed. Glucose absorption raises blood glucose levels. The pancreas starts secreting insulin to assist in moving the glucose molecules out of the bloodstream and into the brain and muscles where it is needed. When too much glucose comes in at once, it swamps the ability of the body’s metabolism to handle it. If you habitually eat large quantities of foods with high GI’s or rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, the pancreas makes too much insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels drop too far, making the body feel hungry. Also, muscle cells start to resist taking in more glucose, which causes more sugar and starch to be stored in the body as there is no place to go.

The key to weight control is to regulate the number of foods being consumed. Too much-absorbed glucose can promote weight gain, and so too can many calories from any source of food, whether it’s protein, fat, or carbohydrates. Nutritionists recommend wheat bread over white bread when clients try to lose weight. White flour is more concentrated and challenging for the intestines to break down the molecules into single glucose units.

Carrots, potatoes, and rice also have high GI’s, but because they are low in calories and sugars, they are quickly digested unless you consume a high amount of these foods. Processed foods like sauces, soups, cereals, frozen dinners, and canned foods have high GI’s, but eating small amounts of these foods in one sitting will satisfy the body’s need for glucose and make it possible for the intestines to break down the glucose links into single units making sugars and starch absorbed into the body.

Sugar and starch should not be avoided. Only consuming large amounts of these foods in one sitting can cause weight gain. Regulating the amount of food consumed promotes weight control and blood sugar levels to maintain optimally. The Glycemic Index can assist people in determining how much of a specific food their bodies can absorb into their system. The scale offers a guideline for people to follow to control their blood sugar levels and weight, thus making the GI a valuable tool for good health.

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