Low glycaemic index diets as an intervention for obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Obes Rev. 2019 Feb;20(2):290-315. doi: 10.1111/obr.12791. Epub 2018 Nov 20.


Objectives: Low glycaemic index (GI) diets may aid in weight loss by reducing postprandial blood glucose excursions, leading to more stable blood glucose concentrations and therefore a reduction in hunger. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing low GI diets with other diet types.

Methods: We included 101 studies involving 109 study arms and 8,527 participants. We meta-analysed the studies using a random-effects model and conducted subgroup analyses and meta-regression based on control diet, blood glucose control, baseline BMI and dietary GI.

Results: Low GI diets resulted in small but significant improvements in body weight, BMI, LDL and total cholesterol overall, although no individual control diet was significantly different from low GI diets. Studies in people with normal blood glucose who achieved a difference in GI of 20 points or more resulted in a larger reduction in body weight (SMD = -0.26; 95% CIs [-0.43, -0.09]), and total cholesterol (SMD = -0.24; 95% CIs [-0.42, -0.05]) than studies that only achieved a smaller reduction in GI.

Conclusions: Low GI diets, especially diets achieving a substantial decrease in GI, were moderately effective in lowering body weight. However, efforts should be made to increase compliance with low GI diets, in order for them to be effective in people with overweight and obesity.

Keywords: Glycaemic index; low GI diets; obesity; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome