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Beef Vs. Bagels: Food Companies Take on Dr. Atkins
Reuters Science via Yahoo ^ | 3-16-03 | Carey Gillam

Posted on 03/16/2003 1:57:19 PM PST by Pharmboy

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (Reuters) - It has been months since Tina Moore last bit into a bagel or a slice of toast.

"Protein is good. Carbs are bad," says 41-year-old Moore, who altered her diet five years ago in a bid to lose weight.

Moore, the owner of a hair salon, is one of the estimated 15 million-plus Americans seen as devoted followers of dieting guru, Dr. Robert Atkins, who recommends eating protein for those who want to rid themselves of unwanted weight and keep the pounds off.

"Carbs and sugar ... they give you a quick high, then you get really low. You get tired and hungry," said Moore, who sees herself as a reformed "carbohydrate addict."

The hamburger patty is good, the hamburger bun bad, according to the teachings of Atkins, who has turned his philosophies into a dieting revolution, starting with his first book, "Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution," in 1972.

Atkins books -- his latest, "Atkins for Life," was published this year -- routinely top best-seller lists. Atkins companies have racked up millions of dollars in sales of specialty low-carb food products and carb-counting scales.

But the popularity of Atkins' eating advice, now appealing to another generation, is fraying the nerves of some food companies who rely on the consumer appetite for carbohydrate-laden foods such as pastas and pizzas, cakes, cookies and cereals, to add heft to their own bottom lines.

They claim Atkins is falsely disparaging food groups that serve as a foundation for American eating. And that by teaching people to severely limit the use of flour-based products, Atkins is eating into sales of some bread and cereal products in the United States.

"Our industry has to do something, and soon. It is starting to become a mainstream belief that carbohydrates are bad," said Judi Adams, director of the Wheat Foods Council, a consortium of industry players that includes ConAgra, General Mills and Kellogg Co.

"This Atkins diet -- or, I call it Fatkins diet -- is going out unchallenged. People are starting to believe it," Adams said.

Part of the consortium's push will be in Washington, where federal health officials are starting talks on revisions to the nation's 11-year-old Food Guide Pyramid.

Wheat Foods will be actively involved in defending the grains, Adams said.

Currently, the pyramid puts bread, cereals, rice and pasta as the foundation for healthy eating, recommending six to 11 servings a day. But some are pushing for changes that would move grains off the foundation, and cut back servings.


There is limited funding for the anti-Atkins campaign, as most food companies spend their advertising dollars on product specific programs to tout such things as new Berry-Burst Cheerios, recently released by General Mills.

So, with only a slender budget to try to counter the Atkins phenomenon, the Wheat Foods Council is aiming its "educational" campaign" at nutritionists and the medical community.

The strategy is a direct attack on Atkins: Americans who follow the Atkins diet increase their risk of health problems that include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, kidney damage and some cancers, the Wheat Foods Council says.

Adding insult to injury, it claims that Atkins followers can also suffer headaches, constipation and bad breath.

The council says obesity is not specifically tied to carbohydrates but is the simple result of lazy overeaters.

"Healthful grain-based foods have become the scapegoat for weight gain, when overeating and underexercising are at issue," said Carol Pratt, a Kellogg nutrition and regulatory affairs expert, and incoming chairwoman for Wheat Foods.


Consumer eating habits are hard to track, but the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey of the U.S. Department of Labor does indicate a possible shift away from grain-based foods.

According to the government survey, consumer spending in 2001 for ready-to-eat and cooked cereals, pasta, flour, flour mixes and bakery products dropped from the previous year even as consumer spending for meat, poultry, fish and eggs and other similar products increased for the third year in a row.

Moreover, the 0.2 percent decrease in spending came as the consumer price index (news - web sites) for those foods grew 2.9 percent. As well, wheat consumption in the United States dropped 4 percent from 1997 to 2001, according to industry research.

"I'm very much concerned," said Mark Dirkes, spokesman for Interstate Bakeries, the nation's largest wholesale baker and the maker of Wonder Bread. "He (Atkins) has run a very effective campaign. That just can't be good for our industry."


Among Atkins preachings: the elimination of "white flour-laden junk food" from kitchen cabinets, and research that Atkins says shows carbohydrates work to slow the body's burning of fat and make people feel hungrier faster.

And after decades of rejecting Atkins' theories, some new scientific research studies, including work by Harvard University, have started lending credence to Atkins' ideas.

Colette Heimowitz, director of research at the Atkins Health and Medical Information Services says over-consumption of bread, cereal and baked products is partly to blame for overweight Americans. Products made with white flour, sugars and hydrogenated oils are the worst.

Still, she says, Atkins is not looking to go to war with the food companies, and that even Atkins die-hards allow for an occasional doughnut or cookie.

"We teach people how to respect it and, on rare occasions, have it in moderation," she said. "We know people can't stay away from it forever."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: carbohydrates; diet; nutrition; obesity
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Atkins is essentially right both from the human evolutionary and metabolic perspectives.

The food companies must stop whining and concentrate on producing palatable, low-carb foods. Period.

They've already lost, they just don't know it yet.

1 posted on 03/16/2003 1:57:19 PM PST by Pharmboy
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To: Pharmboy
Well respected doctor and lots of happy dieters on Atkins VS. ConAgra, ADM, Cargill, etc. Who will win?
2 posted on 03/16/2003 2:01:57 PM PST by ikka
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To: Pharmboy
That's what surprises me. A smart food company would be working on low-carb alternatives and be prepared to sell to this new market. Trying to force the market to stick to high-carbs would be insane and could lead to a major liability problem down the road. It would weaken their defense against the trial lawyers in the obesity fight.
3 posted on 03/16/2003 2:02:23 PM PST by LenS
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To: LenS
You notice, they don't attack the success of the diet itself, they just state that it will hurt sales of grains.
4 posted on 03/16/2003 2:04:09 PM PST by FrankRizzo890
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To: Pharmboy
I agree. Refined carbs be bad. Atkins rules.

5 posted on 03/16/2003 2:06:46 PM PST by big'ol_freeper ("When do I get to lift my leg on the liberal?...err...make that French")
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To: Lil'freeper
6 posted on 03/16/2003 2:07:25 PM PST by big'ol_freeper ("When do I get to lift my leg on the liberal?...err...make that French")
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To: Pharmboy
Yep, I got the bad news from my doctor that I was creeping too close to diabetes, in whtever that blood tests is that he ran.

I went on Atkins, and reduced the way too high level down to below "normal" for my age. My doc was delighted, and told me that my cholesteral wasn down, and so were my triglycerides, and to keep it up.

Atkins has been the only diet that helps with my hypothyroid status. Just can't eat those carbs, but I do miss them on occasion.

I eat plenty of salads, above ground green veggies, and berries for healthy carbs. I eat no grains, and limit dairy products. And I have learned to really enjoy my hamburger without a bun. I put Marie's blue cheese dressing on it, and it is great! But, read the labels, some of Marie's blue cheese dressing is too high in carbs. You have to get the one that has no sugar in it.
7 posted on 03/16/2003 2:09:20 PM PST by jacquej
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To: Pharmboy
Americans who follow the Atkins diet increase their risk of health problems that include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, kidney damage and some cancers, the Wheat Foods Council says.

Absolute, unrestrained, unmitigated lying.

Produce the single medical study that even remotely validates this statement.

There isn't one. The "Wheat Foods Council" is simply lying through its teeth.

8 posted on 03/16/2003 2:09:37 PM PST by angkor
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To: Pharmboy
Atkins has committed the cardinal sin of being right when the "mainstream" is wrong. Happened to Galileo too.

I personally have painlessly lost 25 pounds since the beginning of 2003 doing Atkins. I tried low-fat before but was tired all the time, especially after meals. That's a red flag-- while everyone's different, clearly I was developing insulin intolerance, and the pounds were creeping up.

Today for breakfast I steamed some organic broccoli and made two poached eggs, then slathered it all with hollandaise sauce. Magnificent breakfast. I lost three pounds this week eating like that. And, lest you wonder, my cholesterol is fine.
9 posted on 03/16/2003 2:09:48 PM PST by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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To: Pharmboy
Atkins is essentially right both from the human evolutionary and metabolic perspectives.

Absolutely correct.

10 posted on 03/16/2003 2:11:21 PM PST by angkor
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To: Pharmboy
Cutting carbs from my diet has gotten rid of my hypoglycemic episodes, boosted my endurance, and trimmed me downed to the correct weight for my height and frame. My blood work is great. I don't have headaches or bad breath. I practically stuff myself with *good* carbs from vegetables. I eat adequate protein. I eat fat. I don't touch sugar, flour or any refined carbs. I've been low-carbing for 2 years and I don't plan on quitting. I'm happy and so is my doctor.

So, what's the problem? Why don't they produce alternatives to all of that sugar laden stuff? If they were smart they would.

11 posted on 03/16/2003 2:14:31 PM PST by grimalkin
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To: Pharmboy

Netrition - Your Source for Nutrition on the 'Net!
Netrition - Your Source For Nutrition on the 'Net

The Glycemic Index

By Rick Mendosa


Search WWW Search


What is the Glycemic Index (GI)?

The glycemic index ranks foods on how they affect our blood sugar levels. This index measures how much your blood sugar increases in the two or three hours after eating.

The glycemic index is about foods high in carbohydrates. Foods high in fat or protein don't cause your blood sugar level to rise much.

A lot of people still think that it is plain table sugar that people with diabetes need to avoid. The experts used to say that, but the glycemic index shows that even complex carbohydrates, like baked potatoes, can be even worse.

When you make use of the glycemic index to prepare healthy meals, it helps to keep your blood sugar levels under control. This is especially important for people with diabetes, although athletes and people who are overweight also stand to benefit from knowing about this relatively new concept in good nutrition.

Recent studies of large numbers of people with diabetes show that those who keep their blood sugar under tight control best avoid the complications that this disease can lead to. Most experts agree that what works best for people with diabetes—and probably the rest of us as well—is regular exercise, little saturated or trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils), and a high-fiber diet.

The recommendations to exercise and eat more fiber and less saturated and trans fats is excellent advice—as far as it goes. The real problem is carbohydrates. The official consensus remains that a high-carbohydrate diet is best for people with diabetes. However, some of the experts, led by endocrinologists like Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, recommend a low-carbohydrate diet, because carbohydrates can raise blood sugar to dangerous levels.

But not all carbohydrates act the same. Some are quickly broken down in the intestine, causing the blood sugar level to rise rapidly. These carbohydrates have a high glycemic index.

Please note, however, that a GI value tells you only how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar. It doesn't tell you how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. Four extensions of the glycemic index concept noted in the bibliography below address this limitation.

Before the development of the glycemic index beginning in 1981, scientists assumed that our bodies absorbed and digested simple sugars quickly, producing rapid increases in our blood sugar level. This was the basis of the advice to avoid sugar, a proscription recently relaxed by the American Diabetes Association and others.

Now we know that simple sugars don't make your blood sugar rise any more rapidly than some complex carbohydrates do. Of course, simple sugars are simply empty calories, and still should be minimized for that reason.

Many of the glycemic index results have been surprises. For example, baked potatoes have a glycemic index considerably higher than that of table sugar.

A more pleasant surprise is the very low glycemic index of a tasty bean called chana dal, which is the subject of a separate Web page that I maintain at

Another pleasant surprise is pearled barley, which has a glycemic index of 36. That's much lower than any other grain. For example, brown rice has a glycemic index of 79, and wheat is even higher.

Hulless barley—particularly the non-waxy variety—almost certainly has an even lower glycemic index than pearled barley, because pearling removes some of the fiber. A great source of hulless barley that I have used for years is Bud and Jean Clem's Cowboy Foods in Bozeman, Montana, phone (800) 759-5489 or (406) 587-5489, e-mail Another source of hulless barley is Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods Inc. in Milwaukie, Oregon, phone (503) 654-3215, e-mail

Scientists have so far measured the glycemic indexes of about 750 high-carbohydrate foods. The key is to eat little of those foods with a high glycemic index and more of those foods with a low index.

Where can you find what these foods are? The easiest way is to refer to another Web page that I maintain. That page at summarizes the academic research on this important dietary concept.

The GI is especially useful to people with diabetes who want to plan their diets to minimize the incidence of high blood sugar, or spikes. It measures how fast the carbohydrate of a particular food is converted to glucose and enters the bloodstream. The lower the number the slower the action.

The numbers are percentages with respect to a reference food. They are given here with respect to glucose. In other words, on the scale glucose equals 100 multiply the GI on this scale by 1.4 to convert to the value on the scale where white bread = 100.

Other Resources

Listings of 750 foods for their glycemic index and glycemic load follow on a separate Web page. That is so this page won't be so long. Please click on the link at for these listings.

If you have a handheld computer that uses the Palm operating system, you can download the GI and GL values here for 750 foods at, thanks to Stephen Jackson. You need the Palm Mobile DB database program to view the file data. This is available free for download to your PC at

New editions of the ultimate book about the glycemic index appeared in the UK and Australia in 1998. It has now been published in the U.K. and the U.S.

New Glucose Revolution The first North American edition of the book appeared in July 1999, and an updated version came out in January 2003. Now titled The New Glucose Revolution: The Authoritative Guide to the Glycemic Index, this 348-page book lists for $15.95 ($26.50 Cdn) and is published by Marlowe & Company in New York. The North American co-author with Jennie Brand-Miller and her team at the University of Sydney is Thomas M.S. Wolever, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, the world's other leading active glycemic index researcher.

The book includes more than 50 recipes and the glycemic index and glycemic load for 750 foods and beverages. The authors explain the benefits of a diet that emphasizes foods that are low on the glycemic index. These are foods that as they are digested produce a low, slow blood-sugar response.

The book has some very positive endorsements. Here's one example. "Forget Sugar Busters. Forget The Zone," writes Jean Carper, best-selling author of Miracle Cures, Stop Aging Now!, and Food: Your Miracle Medicine. "If you want the real scoop on how carbohydrates and sugar affect your body, read this book by the world's leading researchers on the subject. It's the authoritative, last word on choosing foods to control your blood sugar."

Professor Brand-Miller continues her research on the glycemic index, including tests of more foods. Her department at the University of Sydney also undertakes GI testing on a commercial basis. She wrote me recently:

Commercial testing of GI according to standardised methodology in 10 volunteers: Fee is US$5000 for the first food with additional foods at US$2500 per food. A 10% discount applies to 6 or more foods. Clinical trial protocols can be negotiated at additional cost. In vitro testing of the rate of carbohydrate digestion (a crude guide to the final GI) is also available at US$500 per food. More information is available at

A GI symbol program has been launched in Australia and New Zealand to help consumers easily identify foods that have been properly GI tested. More information is available at

For further information contact her at the following address:

Jennie Brand-Miller PhD
Professor of Human Nutrition
School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences
University of Sydney
NSW 2006 Australia
Phone: (61 2) 9351 3759
Fax: (61 2) 9351 6022
Jennie Brand-Miller PhD

Thomas Wolever, D.M., Ph.D., professor in the University of Toronto's faculty of medicine, has a company called Glycaemic Index Testing Inc., which is not associated with the university and does commercial testing of the blood glucose responses of foods. It has been in business for four years and has had clients from the U.S., Canada, Japan, UK, Belgium, and Australia. The results of the tests belong to the client, so they cannot be published without the client's permission. "We have a website," Dr. Wolever tells me. "While it is not yet well developed, people can contact us through it. They can also contact me directly at"

If you are trying to lose weight—something of great interest to many people with type 2 diabetes—you may also want to study my Satiety Index page at The satiety index, along with the glycemic index, are two of the most exciting tools that we have to control our diabetes.

Perhaps the best current defense of the glycemic index is a commentary by Dr. Thomas M.S. Wolever, "The Glycemic Index: Flogging a Dead Horse?" in the journal Diabetes Care. Since Diabetes Care chose to not to make it available on-line while making a rebuttal available on-line, I have scanned in an extract of Dr. Wolever's commentary with his permission at

Dr. Andrew Weil, the noted writer and lecturer on integrative medicine, has come out strongly for the utility of the glycemic index. See "What's Up with The Zone?" at He writes that "we should pay attention to the glycemic index of carbohydrate foods - that is, the ease with which the body converts them to blood sugar. High-glycemic foods like rice cakes, bread, and potatoes stress the body's insulin system and probably are chief culprits in obesity."

What about Portion Size? And how is GI Determined?

The glycemic index is about the quality of the carbohydrates, not the quantity. Obviously, quantity matters too, but the measurement of the glycemic index of a food is not related to portion size. It remains the same whether you eat 10 grams of it or 1000 grams. That's because to make a fair comparison tests of the glycemic indexes of food usually use 50 grams of available carbohydrate in each food. You can eat twice as many carbohydrates in a food that, for example, has a glycemic index of 50 than one that has a glycemic index of 100 and have the same blood glucose response.

Basically, test foods are fed to various people, some with diabetes, others without, in portions that contain 50 grams of available carbohydrates. The 50 gram carbohydrate portion is specified in Dr. Wolever's methodology paper (see bibliography below) as 50 grams of available carbohydrates. "That means it excludes the fiber," Professor Brand-Miller writes me. "We have always used a 50 gram available carbohydrate portion and often relied on manufacturers to give us the composition data. I am aware of only one instance where we been given incorrect information and therefore inadvertently included the fiber in the 50 gram carbohydrate portion...but there may be some papers from developing countries where the data is not reliable."

For example, to test boiled spaghetti, the scientists give their subjects 200 grams of spaghetti, which according to standard food composition tables provide 50 grams of available carbohydrate. The scientists compare this response with the volunteer's response to a reference food, which may be either glucose or white bread. Both for the test and for the reference foods the volunteer's response over the next two or three hours is calculated. Rather than measuring a single point, they make the more precise measurement of the area under the curve. Then, they repeat the whole process on different days to reduce the effect of day-to-day variations.

Next, the area under the response curve for the test food is expressed as a percent of the mean value for the reference food for the same subject. Finally, these percentages from each subject are averaged together to obtain the GI for that food. For more information, see Wolever, Thomas M.S. et al. "The Glycemic Index: Methodology and Clinical Implications," listed in the bibliography below.

Are there Other Important Diet Considerations?

The glycemic index should not be your only criterion when selecting what to eat. The total amount of carbohydrate, the amount and type of fat, and the fiber and salt content are also important dietary considerations. The glycemic index is most useful when deciding which high-carbohydrate foods to eat. But don't let the glycemic index lull you into eating more carbohydrates than your body can handle, particularly if you have diabetes. The number of grams of carbohydrate we consume is awfully important. Make sure you know the carbohydrate content of the foods you eat—study the nutritional information on the package.

But first you need to decide the composition of your diet in terms of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Almost all the experts agree that we should minimize our intake of saturated and trans fat and eat a lot more fiber than we do. Some other fats, particularly those from cold-water fish, seem to be beneficial. Beyond that, the battle rages between those who would have us eat more protein and those who say that carbohydrates should provide most of our calories. I'm no expert and am genuinely puzzled myself, although I have begun to cut back on my carbohydrates and eat more protein. Generally, foods high in fat and protein have lower glycemic indexes than foods high in carbohydrate. In a real sense, the glycemic index is not applicable to high-fat and/or high-protein foods.

The problem is that even among the complex carbohydrates not all are created equal. Some break down quickly during digestion and can raise blood glucose to dangerous levels. These are the foods that have higher glycemic indexes. Other carbohydrates break down more slowly, releasing glucose gradually into our blood streams and are said to have lower glycemic indexes.

Before the development of the glycemic index, scientists assumed that our bodies absorbed and digested simple sugars quickly, producing rapid increases in our blood glucose levels. This was the basis of the advice to avoid sugar, a proscription recently relaxed by the American Diabetes Association and others.

Contrariwise, the experts thought that our bodies absorbed starches such as rice and potatoes slowly, causing only small rises in blood glucose. Clinical trials of the glycemic index have also proven that assumption to be false.

Factors such as variety, cooking, and processing may effect a food's GI. Foods particularly sensitive to these factors include bananas, rice, and potatoes (for a fuller discussion of the GI of rice and potatoes see the section below). A 1992 study by Hermansen et al. reported that the GI for under-ripe bananas was 43 and that for over-ripe bananas was 74. In under-ripe bananas the starch constitutes 80-90 percent of the carbohydrate content, which as the banana ripens changes to free sugars. Particle size is also an important factor, according to a 1988 study by Heaton et al. The researchers found that the GI of wheat, maize, and oats increased from whole grains (lowest GI), cracked grains, coarse flour, to fine flour (highest GI).

In addition, the glucose response to a particular food may be somewhat individual. So it is probably a good idea to carefully watch your own blood glucose level after eating foods you have questions about and determine if they have high or low GI for you.

So, the idea of glycemic index is a very useful one. But if you find a specific food produces an unexpected result, either high or low, take note of it and incorporate that into your meal planning.

Also note that the numbers vary from study to study. This may be due to variations in the individuals in a particular study, other foods consumed at the same time, or different methods of preparation, since your body can absorb some foods better when they are well cooked.

Most, but not all, of the foods tested are high in carbohydrates. Some may wonder at the gaps—why other high-carbohydrate low-calorie foods like celery (or tomatoes or similar foods) have never been tested. The problem is a technical one for the testers, because they would be so hard put to get anyone to volunteer to eat 50 grams of carbohydrate from celery—it's just too much celery to think about! Essentially, from a glycemic index standpoint, celery and foods like it can be considered as free foods. I now have a list of the common vegetables and fruits that are free foods on-line at

Mixed Meals

Some people wonder if the glycemic index can predict the effect of a mix meal containing foods with very different indexes. Studies have shown that it does that job very well, too.

More than fifteen studies have looked at the glycemic index of mixed meals. Twelve of them showed an excellent correlation between what was expected and what was actually found.

You can quite readily predict the glycemic index of a mixed meal. Simply multiply the percent of total carbohydrate of each of the foods by its glycemic index and add up the results to get the glycemic index of the meal as a whole. Professor Brand-Miller has an example on page 78 of her book The New Glucose Revolution. The report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation "Carbohydrates in Human Nutrition" (cited in the Web bibliography below), has a comprehensive explanation and example in its section 6.3.

The three studies that did not show the expected correlation came from a group of researchers who were not using standardized methodology for working out the glycemic index from the area under the curve. In addition, their meals were high in fat, which tends to reduce the impact of any one carbohydrate food.

What About Protein and Fat?

But what if the meal contains protein and fat too, as it usually does? How does that affect our mixed meal calculations?

The conventional wisdom holds that between 50 to 60% of protein becomes glucose and enters the bloodstream about 3 to 4 hours after it's eaten. It's generally accepted that fat has little affect on blood glucose.

In fact, recent studies indicate that neither protein nor fat have more than a minuscule affect on blood glucose. This seems to be true for people both with and without diabetes. The protein studies are particularly interesting.

A 50-gram dose of protein (in the form of very lean beef) resulted in only about 2 grams of glucose being produced and released into circulation. Neither does adding protein to carbohydrate slow the absorption or peak of the glucose response.

Fat delays the peak but not the total glucose response, according to these new studies. Therefore, it looks like you can simply ignore protein and fat in mixed meal calculations.

"Of much greater concern is how protein and fat affect blood glucose levels in the long term," Jennie Brand-Miller of the University of Sydney writes me. "High fat and high protein diets have the distinct potential to induce insulin resistance, which would mean that any carbohydrate eaten would raise blood glucose and insulin levels to greater heights on a day to day basis. However, the type of fat may be important here. A recent study in Diabetologia showed that moderately high MUFA [monounsaturated fatty acids] diets improved insulin sensitivity, if the fat was less than a certain level (higher than 37% was associated with insulin resistance)."

For fuller details you can check out the articles themselves:

  1. Franz, Marion J. "Protein Controversies in Diabetes." Diabetes Spectrum, Volume 13, Number 3, 2000, pages 132-141. The URL is

  2. Gannon MC, Nuttall JA, Damberg G, Gupta V, Nuttall FQ. "Effect of Protein Ingestion on the Glucose Appearance Rate in People with Type 2 Diabetes" The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 86, March 2001, pages 1040-1047. The URL is


Many people have noticed that pizza seems to keep their blood glucose level high longer than just about any other food. While the reason remains a mystery, this folk wisdom now has scientific confirmation.

Ahern et al. compared the effect on insulin-dependent patients of a pizza meal with a control meal that included high glycemic index foods. They found that although the initial glucose increase was similar for the two meals, the GI continued to rise and was significantly increased from four to nine hours after the pizza meal compared with the control meal.

Rice and Potatoes

Rice and potatoes are some of the foods most tested for their glycemic indexes. They are important both because most of us tend to eat a lot of rice and potatoes and because they can have a high glycemic index. Professor Brand-Miller reports the results of 49 studies of rice and 24 studies of potatoes. The results for rice ranged all the way from 54 to 132 and for potatoes from 67 to 158.

What could possibly cause such tremendous variation? According to Professor Brand-Miller, for rice one of the most important considerations is the ratio of amylose to amylopectin. She says that "the only whole (intact) grain food with a high G.I. factor is low amylose rice, such as Calrose rice...However, some varieties of rice (Basmati, a long grain fragrant rice, and Doongara, a new Australian variety of rice [which is not available in the United States] have intermediate G.I. factors because they have a higher amylose content than normal rice."

Wallace Yokoyama, a research chemist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Albany, California, gave me a comprehensive explanation. There are, says this noted rice specialist, four types of rice: long-grain, medium-grain, short-grain, and sweet rice. Sweet rice is also known as sticky or waxy rice. It makes the best sauces and gravies, and is usually the rice used in Asian restaurants. Sweet rice has no amylose, Yokoyama says. In other words, it is the rice that has the highest glycemic index. The three other types of rice have lower glycemic indexes. Among these types, long-grain rice has the highest amylose content and short-grain the lowest.

Of course, each of these three types of rice may be brown or white. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice, everything else being equal. Therefore brown long-grain rice—or if you can find it—brown Basmati rice—will probably be your best bet for a rice with a lower glycemic index. White Basmati rice had a glycemic index of 83 in one study. Brown Basmati rice can be expected to have a somewhat lower index, but we don't know precisely what it is, because the studies haven't been done yet.

Richard Jackson maintains in e-mail to me that my statement that there are three basic types of rice is "somewhat incorrect." He says that there is also a sweet rice used in oriental cooking. "It is not only very much stickier than standard Asian milled rice (such as Kokuro Rose Brand)," he writes, "but is perceptibly sweeter when eaten. It is typically fermented prior to cooking, whereas standard Japanese-style milled rice is not. I think if more research is done into this factor, the data may prove that the difference between sweet rice and regular Asian-style rice is different on the scale of caloric values as pertains to ingestion by diabetics."

Among potatoes, new and some white potatoes have the lowest indexes. The reason that new potatoes have a lower GI is probably because most of the amylopectin is less branched—it is more like amylose at this immature stage.

Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup

An addition to the published glycemic indexes is high fructose corn syrup, which is endemic in U.S. processed foods. Fructose is not the same as high fructose corn syrup, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller emphasized in a message to, which he kindly faxed to me. "The former is pure fructose; the latter [high fructose corn syrup] is a mixture of fructose and glucose," she wrote. "In high fructose corn syrups, the fructose content is about 50 percent. Thus the GI of high fructose corn syrups is about the same as sucrose, i.e. 60-65 (if glucose = 100)." When white bread = 100, the GI of high fructose corn syrups is 85-92.

Soy Milk

Soy milk has a low glycemic index of 43, according to e-mail from Professor Brand-Miller. The tested soy milk, she writes, has 4.5 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of protein per 100 ml. A low factor for soy milk isn't surprising, since soybeans have a GI of 25. But consumers in the United States—where many different brands and flavors are available—need to be aware that not all soy milks are created equal.

My wife, who like me has type 2 diabetes, recently discovered that her blood glucose rose dramatically after a large cup of chai made with soy milk. That's when we paid attention for the first time to how many grams of carbohydrate that particular soy milk had. So then I looked through the nutrition information on the dozens of brands and flavors of soy milk (and rice milk and almond milk and oat milk, etc.) in our local natural foods store.

I was amazed to find that the carbohydrate content of these beverages varied from 4 grams per 8 oz. to 36 grams. At least four brands have no more than 4 grams of carbohydrate per 8 oz. serving and are made from nothing by water and organic whole soybeans.

Pacific Original Non Dairy Beverage Unsweetened has 5 grams of carbohydrates, but 3 grams are fiber, which means it has only 2 grams of available carbohydrate per serving. The URL is

Soyfresh Unsweetened Soy Beverage also has only 2 grams of available carbohydrate per serving. The URL is

Plain Yo Soy Traditional Soymilk from Wildwood Natural Foods is almost as low-carb. It has 3 grams of available carbohydrate. The URL is

Westbrae Natural Foods’ Westsoy 100% Organic Non Dairy Soy Beverage Unsweetened has 4 grams of available carbohydrate. The URL is

You may also want to compare these numbers with cow's milk. It has 11 to 13 grams of carbohydrate per 8 oz, whether it is non-fat or full-fat. Also note that the carbohydrates in soy beverages have a lower GI than that of lactose, which is 65.


Thanks to Professor Jennie Brand-Miller for authorizing me to reproduce her glycemic index and glycemic load table. Thanks too to Tere Griffin who began the collection of information for what turned into this Web page and originally got me interested in this fascinating subject.

Too Complicated?

There's nothing on my Web site that draws more visitors (and more e-mail questions) than my articles on the glycemic index. Ever since I reviewed the first Australian edition of The G.I. Factor by Jennie Brand-Miller and her associates at the University of Sydney for Diabetes Interview in August 1996 (online at, Jennie and I have maintained a close albeit long-distance relationship.

I brought to her attention an article in The Washington Post that was critical of the glycemic index concept. That article, by Lawrence Lindner, executive editor of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, appeared as "What's Your Number, Sweetie? The Glycemic Index Is Science-Based—and Nearly Impossible to Follow," The Washington Post, May 1, 2001, is online at

Jennie wrote a brilliant and short—and caustic rebuttal. Too trenchant for the Post, the newspaper has not yet published it and probably never will. It is, however, too good to go unread, and yesterday Jennie authorized me to reproduce her letter here:

Imagine setting up a system of rating the energy content of foods and assigning a number—let's call them calories, the higher the number, the more energy they contain and the greater their likelihood of causing weight gain. We could use this system to guide food choices to lower energy intake.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple! The number would not tell us anything about the vitamin, mineral or fiber content. The numbers could be misleading—some highly nutritious foods like nuts and legumes have terribly high numbers (calories), while some nutritionally worthless foods have very low numbers (e.g. diet soda). What's more the numbers are not set in stone—they vary from time to time and just a slight change in the recipe would alter the number drastically. Let's dump the concept—it's way too difficult to follow.

The worth of any food cannot be measured by a single number, but a single number can tell you a great deal about how the carbohydrate in that food affects blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dozens of studies have shown improvements in a variety of clinical outcomes with free-living subjects consuming self-selected low glycemic index diets.

Like the calorie content of food, the glycemic index deserves some consideration. The foods that provide the most carbohydrate in the diet are the ones that need close attention (potatoes, breakfast cereals, breads, soft drinks), not carrots, honey or over-ripe bananas.


Jennie Brand-Miller PhD
Associate Professor of Human Nutrition
University of Sydney, Australia
Author of The Glucose Revolution, Marlowe and Co., 1999


Among the literally hundreds of studies of the glycemic index in the scientific literature, these are some of the most important and most recent:

The Glycemic Index Elsewhere on the Internet:

Last modified: March 13, 2003

© Copyright 2003 Rick Mendosa. All Rights Reserved.

You may quote part of this page in on-line documents and printed publications, but please notify me so I can add a reference and make sure that you add pointers to the places where people can get the latest version.

Permission to link this site to yours is not needed. Of course, I would be delighted to hear from you, especially if you have a new site that you think should be linked here.

I have no control over the content or continued existence of any external on-line resources linked here, and I therefore cannot guarantee that they will function as promised. The appearance of a site on this list does not imply any endorsement by me.

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12 posted on 03/16/2003 2:14:51 PM PST by big bad easter bunny
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To: big bad easter bunny
Whew! I think I lost a pound or two just scrolling down your post...

But seriously, good stuff.

13 posted on 03/16/2003 2:22:09 PM PST by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to)
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To: Pharmboy
I've lost 30 lbs since the beginning of the year on Atkins. I feel better than I have in years. No after work naps anymore! I've not counted calories, just cut the sugar and carbs. Consider me one of the Atkins 'converts'

When I started looking at when I really gained weight it was when I believed the "food pyramid" saying I could have 11 servings of grain a day. Maybe some people can, but not me.

14 posted on 03/16/2003 2:30:28 PM PST by not_apathetic_anymore
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To: Pharmboy
"We know people can't stay away from it forever."

A diet is simple, unchanging, and not in any way dependent on any single weight loss scheme. Weight is a function of the difference in the amount of calories consumed and the amount of calories expended. In order to gain weight simply consume more calories than you expend, to lose weight just reverse it, consume less calories than you expend.

For the utmost in health eat fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains for the nutrition your body requires. All other foods are to be consumed for fun because outside of an occasional fish no other foods are required for nutrition.

Counting carbohydrates is not the reason Atkin’s methods result in weight loss. The reason for the weight loss is the reduction of calories consumed and more importantly not allowing protein foods and starches in the same meal.

Simply do not combine proteins and starches “when you can’t stay away from it”. If you must have that baked potato load it with butter if you wish but do consume it with meat or any protein food. Have all the vegetables you wish with that baked potato.

15 posted on 03/16/2003 2:33:34 PM PST by MosesKnows
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To: not_apathetic_anymore
The American Diabetes Association and the other official associations continue to kill and maim American with their dreadful recommendations about high carbo diets ("complex carbs"). I would not be surprised if the trial lawyers begin to level their sites on them.
16 posted on 03/16/2003 2:35:40 PM PST by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to)
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To: LenS
Would love to find low carb breads. I use corn tortillas one tortilla has 11 carbs and you can put just about anything in it.
17 posted on 03/16/2003 2:35:59 PM PST by linn37 (WE'LL PUT A BOOT IN YOUR ASS ITS THE AMERICAN WAY)
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To: Pharmboy
I agree.... Why don't the grain farmers create low-carb flours and low gluten goods that cater to the Atkins program followers, offer these at a lower price than much that's on the Atkins site, and turn the remaining into fuel. Then we can be a little more less reliant on fossil fuels. It could be a win-win situation

I am a true believer in Atkins. I have lost 32# on it, and feel just great. Very seldomly do I encounter heart-burn anymore since I have cut the carbs drastically.
18 posted on 03/16/2003 2:36:22 PM PST by 24Karet
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To: MosesKnows
Wrong--there are many metabolic switches in our system, and carb intake controls some very important ones. With all due respect, your thinking is dated. We have moved beyond "a calorie is just a calorie." Research PPARs; look at how visceral fat controls metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

It's pretty complex stuff and we do not have all the answers, but they're coming fast; don't get caught on the wrong side of emerging metabolic (approach to) truth.

19 posted on 03/16/2003 2:39:52 PM PST by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to)
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To: Pharmboy
20 posted on 03/16/2003 2:41:17 PM PST by chicagolady
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