Glycemic index claims on food labels: review of Health Canada's evaluation

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Dec;67(12):1229-33. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.193. Epub 2013 Oct 9.


Recently Health Canada (HC) published its opinion that including glycemic index (GI) values on food labels would be misleading and not add value to nutrition labeling and dietary guidelines to help consumers make healthier food choices. Important areas of concern were identified by HC, but the discussion of them is scientifically invalid. HC concluded that GI has poor precision for labeling purposes based on incorrect application of the standard deviation. In fact, GI methodology is precise enough to distinguish, with high probability, low-GI (GI ≤ 55) from high-GI (GI ≥ 70) foods and to pass the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Nutrition Compliance Test procedure. HC rightly concluded that GI does not respond to portion size, whereas glycemic response does, but no valid evidence was provided to support the assertion that a lower-GI food could have a higher glycemic response. HC's focus on glycemic response could promote a low-carbohydrate diet inconsistent with nutrition recommendations. HC correctly concluded that GI is unresponsive to the replacement of available- with unavailable-carbohydrate but this is irrelevant to GI labeling. HC is rightly concerned about promoting unhealthy low-GI foods; however, this could be avoided by prohibiting GI labeling on such foods. Therefore, HC has provided neither a helpful nor scientifically valid evaluation of GI for labeling purposes but has contributed to the wealth of misinformation about GI in the literature. Currently, Canadian consumers only have access to unregulated and misleading information about GI; well-crafted guidelines for GI labeling would provide consumers accurate information about GI and help them make healthier food choices.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Food
  • Food Labeling / standards*
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena


  • Dietary Carbohydrates