Background and aims: The positive and negative health effects of dietary carbohydrates are of interest to both researchers and consumers.
Methods: International experts on carbohydrate research held a scientific summit in Stresa, Italy, in June 2013 to discuss controversies surrounding the utility of the glycemic index (GI), glycemic load (GL) and glycemic response (GR).
Results: The outcome was a scientific consensus statement which recognized the importance of postprandial glycemia in overall health, and the GI as a valid and reproducible method of classifying carbohydrate foods for this purpose. There was consensus that diets low in GI and GL were relevant to the prevention and management of diabetes and coronary heart disease, and probably obesity. Moderate to weak associations were observed for selected cancers. The group affirmed that diets low in GI and GL should always be considered in the context of diets otherwise understood as healthy, complementing additional ways of characterizing carbohydrate foods, such as fiber and whole grain content. Diets of low GI and GL were considered particularly important in individuals with insulin resistance.
Conclusions: Given the high prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetes worldwide and the consistency of the scientific evidence reviewed, the expert panel confirmed an urgent need to communicate information on GI and GL to the general public and health professionals, through channels such as national dietary guidelines, food composition tables and food labels.
Keywords: Cancer; Diabetes; Glycemic index; Glycemic load; Heart disease.
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