Low-glycemic-load diets: impact on obesity and chronic diseases

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2003;43(4):357-77. doi: 10.1080/10408690390826554.


Historically, carbohydrates have been thought to play only a minor role in promoting weight gain and in predicting the risk of development of chronic disease. Most of the focus had been on reducing total dietary fat. During the last 20 years, fat intake decreased, while the number of individuals who were overweight or developed a chronic conditions have dramatically increased. Simultaneously, the calories coming from carbohydrate have also increased. Carbohydrates can be classified by their post-prandial glycemic effect, called the glycemic index or glycemic load. Carbohydrates with high glycemic indexes and high glycemic loads produce substantial increases in blood glucose and insulin levels after ingestion. Within a few hours after their consumption, blood sugar levels begin to decline rapidly due to an exaggerated increase in insulin secretion. A profound state of hunger is created. The continued intake of high-glycemic load meals is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. In this review, the terms glycemic index and glycemic load are defined, coupled with an overview of short- and long-term changes that occur from eating diets of different glycemic indexes and glycemic loads. Finally, practical strategies for how to design low-glycemic-load diets consisting primarily of low-glycemic carbohydrates are provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index / physiology*
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control


  • Dietary Carbohydrates