Food properties affecting the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates

Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Mar;59(3 Suppl):699S-705S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/59.3.699S.


Carbohydrate foods differ considerably in their effects on postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Qualitative differences among starchy foods are particularly intriguing because of the dominance of starch in human diets. This paper focuses on food properties in cereal (eg, pasta, bread, Arepas, and porridge) and legume products (eg, red kidney beans and lentils) that affect metabolic responses to starch. Studies in healthy subjects have found that postprandial blood glucose and insulin responses are greatly affected by food structure. Any process that disrupts the physical or botanical structure of food ingredients will increase the plasma glucose and insulin responses. The glycemic responses to bread products were reduced by the use of ingredients with an intact botanical or physical structure or a high amylose content or by enrichment with viscous dietary fiber. However, the important of a moderate increase in the amylose-amylopectin ratio and the naturally occurring levels of viscous cereal fiber is less clear. The rate of starch digestion in vitro was shown to be a key determinant of metabolic responses to most products. Assuming the sample preparation mimics chewing, in vitro enzymic procedures can be used to facilitate ranking. One such procedure, based on chewed rather than artificially disintegrated products, was recently developed and correlates well with glycemic and insulinemic indices for several starchy foods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Digestion / physiology*
  • Edible Grain / metabolism*
  • Fabaceae / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Insulin / blood
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Plants, Medicinal*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Insulin