Do we really need Organic Rat Poison?

By March 18, 2009Uncategorized

What do these foods have in common:

  • Nutella Chocolate Spread
  • Fettucine Pasta
  • Skim Milk
  • Frozen Peas
  • Peanut M&M’s
  • Give up? They all have the same GI. GI stands for glycaemic index and, simply put, it is a measure of the degree to which any given food produces a spike in blood sugar (and therefore insulin).

    It’s kind of like the different types of fuel you can feed a fire. If you put pine planks on the fire, they will burn very hot and very quickly but they will be used up in minutes. If, however, you put hardwood sleepers in, they will burn slowly for hours. Low-GI foods are hardwood sleepers to our body and high-GI foods are pine planks.

    Lately people have been putting it about that we should all eat low GI foods. The theory is that if you aim to keep blood-glucose levels and therefore insulin levels low and constant, your appetite will be largely suppressed and large quantities of insulin will not be being released and used to create body fat.

    GI diets effectively treat all of us like we are suffering from insulin dependent diabetes. If you need an injection of insulin to lower your blood sugar then it is pretty important to avoid foods which will cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. But if you don’t then there is precious little evidence that GI makes any difference whatsoever to your health.

    All of the foods in the list not only have the same GI, it is a low-GI (46). So if you were on a Low-GI diet you could merrily chomp on any of those foods with a completely clear conscience. Does a diet of M&Ms, Nutella and pasta make sense to you? Do you think you’d lose weight or be healthier? No, neither do I.

    The latest innovation on the GI marketing bandwagon is low-GI sugar. It’s apparently produced by increasing the particle size of the molasses used to create brown sugar and retaining more of the phenols and other vitamins and minerals in the original sugar cane. This produces a lower GI than normal white sugar (50 as opposed to 65). Great but it’s still sugar and it’s still half fructose, one of the most dangerous sugars known to man. In fact if you really wanted a low GI sugar you should go for pure fructose. Its GI is only 19.  And don’t need to guess too hard to know what I think of that.

    There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with GI as a piece of information about food. It’s just not very helpful if you are trying to eat well, because it is so easily manipulated as a marketing device.

    Lowering the GI of sugar is a cynical marketing exercise that’s right up there with lowering the carbon emissions of the cows that make the glass and a half of milk in every bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. What’s next low carbon land mines, odourless cigarettes or perhaps even organic rat poison?

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