Background: Glycemic index (GI) testing is normally based on individual foods, whereas GIs for meals or diets are based on a formula using a weighted sum of the constituents. The accuracy with which the formula can predict a meal or diet GI is questionable.
Objective: Our objective was to compare the GI of meals, obtained by using the formula and by using both measured food GI and published values, with directly measured meal GIs.
Design: The GIs of 7 foods were tested in 30 healthy people. The foods were combined into 3 meals, each of which provided 50 g available carbohydrate, including a staple (potato, rice, or spaghetti), vegetables, sauce, and pan-fried chicken.
Results: The mean (95% CI) meal GIs determined from individual food GI values and by direct measurement were as follows: potato meal [predicted, 63 (56, 70); measured, 53 (46, 62)], rice meal [predicted, 51 (45, 56); measured, 38 (33, 45)], and spaghetti meal [predicted, 54 (49, 60); measured, 38 (33, 44)]. The predicted meal GIs were all higher than the measured GIs (P < 0.001). The extent of the overestimation depended on the particular food, ie, 12, 15, and 19 GI units (or 22%, 40%, and 50%) for the potato, rice, and spaghetti meals, respectively.
Conclusions: The formula overestimated the GI of the meals by between 22% and 50%. The use of published food values also overestimated the measured meal GIs. Investigators using the formula to calculate a meal or diet GI should be aware of limitations in the method. This trial is registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry as ACTRN12611000210976.