Despite initial enthusiasm, the relationship between glycemic index (GI) and glycemic response (GR) and disease prevention remains unclear. This review examines evidence from randomized, controlled trials and observational studies in humans for short-term (e.g., satiety) and long-term (e.g., weight, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes) health effects associated with different types of GI diets. A systematic PubMed search was conducted of studies published between 2006 and 2018 with key words glycemic index, glycemic load, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, body weight, satiety, and obesity. Criteria for inclusion for observational studies and randomized intervention studies were set. The search yielded 445 articles, of which 73 met inclusion criteria. Results suggest an equivocal relationship between GI/GR and disease outcome. The strongest intervention studies typically find little relationship among GI/GR and physiological measures of disease risk. Even for observational studies, the relationship between GI/GR and disease outcomes is limited. Thus, it is unlikely that the GI of a food or diet is linked to disease risk or health outcomes. Other measures of dietary quality, such as fiber or whole grains may be more likely to predict health outcomes. Interest in food patterns as predictors of health benefits may be more fruitful for research to inform dietary guidance.
Keywords: body weight; carbohydrates; chronic disease risk; glycemic index; glycemic load; glycemic response; satiety; type 2 diabetes.