Why you should know the glycemic index of the food you eat

October 13, 2010 by  

In order to be healthy and stay healthy, we should know the meaning of certain terminologies that is related to the food we eat and how our body reacts to and interacts with this food.

Most of us know about calories, calorie intake and burning, carbs, sugar and blood sugar, and of course the fats – transfats, saturated and unsaturated fats.

Here is another term that you should know about: glycemic index.

Glycemic index or GI for short is “a numerical scale used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise our blood glucose (blood sugar) level. A food with a low GI will typically prompt a moderate rise in blood glucose, while a food with a high GI may cause our blood glucose level to increase above the optimal level.” GI is also known as glycemic load.

Contrary to popular belief, GI is not something that only those with diabetes should know. Knowing the GI of the food we eat helps maintain a normal healthy weight, good cardiovascular health and favorable lipid profiles and thus lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Here is why GI of our foods matter. Foods with high GI are rich in carbs that are eventually converted into glucose (simple sugar). The presence of glucose in the blood triggers the production of insulin that converts glucose into energy and excess glucose into stored fat. However, when the body is constantly forced to produce excess too much insulin, the results is not very healthy. Insulin resistance is a major adverse effect, followed by high levels of blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), increased weight and cardiovascular problems.

That is why paying attention to the GI of the food we eat is important to our health. GIs may be high, medium or low.

High GI is 70 and above. Glucose has GI ranging from 85 to 111. A can of coke has 77.

Medium GI is from 56 to 69. An example of foodstuffs with medium GI is the table sugar, with 58 to 65 (source: glycemic edge). A regular hamburger has 66 and 1 cup of cheerios has 74.

Low GI is from 0 to 54 and most of the fruit and vegetables and unsweetened dairy products fall under this category. Examples are

  • Fresh apples – 28 to 44
  • Fresh bananas – 30 to 52
  • Fresh kidney beans – 13 to 46
  • Fresh carrots – 16 to 92

Foods with high and medium GIs should be avoided, maybe eaten once in a while Below I give some links as to where to check the GIs of the food stuffs. But when looking through the Glycemic edge database, I found some surprisingly high GIs, as follows:

  • French baguette – 95
  • 1 cup of corn flakes – 84
  • Graham crackers – 74
  • Tofu frozen dessert, low fat, 1/2 cup – 115
  • Gatorade – 78

Sources of GI values of the food you eat:

Diabetes treatments benefit animals, too

August 16, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Diabetes used to be a death sentence. Until 1922 when insulin was discovered, extracted from pancreas of dogs. With insulin, diabetes became manageable. Dogs and other animals have been and are still being used in biomedical research for developing and testing new drugs for humans. Animal rights activists are of course not happy with this state of affairs. A recent report from the University of Missouri (MU) however indicates that it is not only human beings who benefit from the fruit of biomedical research but man’s best friend and other animals as well.

MU researchers have tested a continuous glucose monitoring device commonly used in humans with diabetes in animals and found the device to be helpful in treating dogs and other animals. The device is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades of the animal.

According to Charles Wiedmeyer, assistant professor of clinical pathology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Our research has found that continuous glucose monitoring devices can be used in dogs, cats, cows and horses. Use of this system alleviated the need for multiple blood samples. It also reduces the stress associated with obtaining those samples. This system may provide greater monitoring capabilities in animals with diabetes and promote the diagnostic and research potential of glucose monitoring in veterinary patients.”

The device records blood glucose data every five minutes and provides a detailed blood glucose profile of an animal for several days. The data obtained with the device are invaluable in managing diabetes in pets especially in determining the proper dosage of insulin and in controlling sugar levels through proper diet.

These all sound very familiar to those who are suffering from diabetes because the disease manifestations in humans and in animals are very similar.

“Many of the symptoms of diabetes in dogs are similar to the symptoms in humans, including excessive water consumption, increased urination, or unexplained weight loss. For dogs, treatment typically involves insulin shots twice a day. Dogs get complications from diabetes, but they are not as severe as human complications. Older, female dogs and some breeds, such as schnauzers and poodles, are more prone to diabetes.”

Dogs, however, are more like little children rather than adults with diabetes because they have little control over their insulin and diet. They need to rely on their owners/caregivers on glycemic control, thus making easy and convenient glucose monitoring invaluable.

The glucose monitoring device specially designed for animals is manufactured by Medtronics.

iPhone Apps for those with diabetes

June 29, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Monitoring blood sugar and insulin levels as well as keeping in mind the kind of food that helps you keep your glycemic targets are hard. Add to that the complexity of insulin types, the glucose periods (fasting, before and after eating) and you get lots of data on your hand. I had to monitor my blood glucose when I was pregnant and had gestational diabetes. That was just for a few months. I can imagine how tedious this recordkeeping can be if it is for life. Which is why it is so great that there is technology nowadays to help people with diabetes. As part of our series of health and medical phone apps, we are bringing you a couple of useful apps for those with diabetes.

Glucose Buddy was supposedly ranked as the number 1 iPhone diabetes application by Manny Hernandez, Founder of TuDiabetes.com. It allows users to enter data on glucose levels, carbohydrate consumption, and insulin dosages. It is fully compatible and syncs easily with the Internet application at www.glucosebuddy.com. It costs nothing to download.

Diabetes Log is simple and straightforward, yet useful app to record glucose levels and food intake. The newer versions allow you to mail your data directly to your doctor with the Touch Mail application. It is for free.

DiaMedic also helps you record your glucose and insulin values as well as exercise but in a highly compressed way that allows you to fit more info. “Diamedic © Diabetes Logbook offers a unique solution for the diabetic to easily record every glucose reading, insulin injection, lab result, carb intake, weight, medication and exercise workout. Log sugar levels on the go, then monitor readings with instant graphs to help you maintain tight control.”

Glucose-Charter™ is another app that enables to your to record blood glucose and insulin levels that you can send to your doctor at the touch of a button. In addition, it gives access to a database of diabetes-friendly food. There is a Lite version and Pro version. Unfortunately, I can’t find any info about the price but the lite version should be cheaper or even for free.

Diabetic Meal Planner helps you calculate your glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) for a meal or for a day. It gives info about common food items to help you in planning your meals taking into account the carbs, fats and proteins. There is a free and a full version ($13.99). The former gives info on 38 food items, the latter on 975.

Type2Friendly is actually useful for those with Type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It gives info on diabetes-friendly restaurants, their menus, maps and directions, websites and contact numbers. Makes going out for diabetics easier.

Photo credit: screen shot from diabetes log

The fountain of youth is calorie-poor

March 17, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING

For thousands of years, people have been searching for the fountain of youth. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham now think they may be on the verge of discovering the proverbial fountain and this fountain is low in calories.

Is it that simple? Reducing your calories means increasing your life span?

The researchers studied two types of lung cells: One type consisted of normal human lung cell and the other type consisted of lung cells at the beginning stages of cancer (precancerous). The two types of cells were grown in media containing normal or low amounts of glucose. Survival rates and the ability to divide were regularly monitored. The results showed:

  • Normal cells live longer when grown in low-glucose medium.
  • Precancerous cells die in low-glucose medium

According to researcher Dr. Trygve Tollefsbol at the Center for Aging and Comprehensive Cancer Center at the university

“In that time, we were able to track the cells’ ability to divide while also monitoring the number of surviving cells. The pattern that was revealed to us showed that restricted glucose levels led the healthy cells to grow longer than is typical and caused the precancerous cells to die off in large numbers.”

Two key genes have been identified that were responsible for this cellular response of decreased glucose. The telomerase gene encodes the enzyme that allows cells to divide indefinitely. The p16 gene encodes a well known anti-cancer protein. The gene effects were opposite between the 2 cell types tested. Healthy cells had increased telomerase and decreased p16 whereas the precancerous cells had decreased telomerase and increased p16 protein.

Extrapolated to the living human, the body (which is composed of cells) stays healthier and lives longer when we consume less glucose, our main source of calories.

“Our hope is that the discovery that reduced calories extends the lifespan of normal human cells will lead to further discoveries of the causes for these effects in different cell types and facilitate the development of novel approaches to extend the lifespan of humans. We would also hope for these studies to lead to improved prevention of cancer as well as many other age-related diseases through controlling calorie intake of specific cell types.”

Whether this is the fountain of youth or not, we know that eating food with high calories is unhealthy. High calorie intake is associated with a lot of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Aside from prolonging life, low calorie intake seems to prevent disease development. These findings especially hold a lot of promise in anti-cancer therapy.

Do You Check Your Sugar?

January 29, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Choosing The Proper Glucose Monitor

Every day and in most cases, several times a day, you should be checking your blood glucose levels. The best monitor for you will fit your lifestyle. Today there are many different monitors to choose from. Some allow you to use blood from a small prick on your arm, while others need a larger amount from your fingertip.

But, which type is the most accurate? I have used both types and have found that the difference between blood taken from the forearm and from the fingertip can be staggering. This comes from several experiments with my mother’s glucose monitor over the course of the past 5 months. In some cases there was a difference of 70 points.

Best Time To Check

The best time to check your glucose levels is before you eat and before you retire for the night. Some diabetics may feel shaky if they have not eaten or if their meal does not have enough sugar in it. Remember that sugar can form in the blood from carbohydrates in your food. If you do not have the proper balance of carbs in your meals, a drop in blood glucose can occur giving you symptoms of shakiness, dizziness, or weakness. Cold sweats can occur with an extreme drop.

Often it may be hard to tell the difference between high glucose and low, because the symptoms can mimic one another. If you experience any of the symptoms described above, check your sugar! There have been times when a diabetic was given sugary substances in an effort to raise their glucose levels when their glucose was already dangerously high. An injection of insulin to someone who seems to be having a high level can be fatal! Never take any action until you have checked your glucose levels or someone else has. Be sure to keep a notification in your wallet, on your fridge, or by wearing a medical alert bracelet. This will help anyone who needs to give you emergency care know what they need to do for your condition.

Monitor Your Sugar

This is very important. Take note of your sugar levels in a small notebook or the glucose diary that comes with your glucose monitor. Eventually you will come to notice a pattern and may be able to better control your diabetes with your diet and exercise. Talk with your doctor at each visit and make sure to bring your glucose diary. Knowing your diabetes and how your body reacts with stress, food, and other influences can give you the tools you need to stay healthy.

An Introduction to Diabetes

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Diabetes – An Introduction to Diabetes

Diabetes, a disease characterized by chronic high levels of glucose in the blood, is not the major problem it once was. Prior to the end of the 19th century, it might well have been a death sentence for many. Excess glucose can have a number of ill effects, including poor cut healing or kidney damage, even coma. With the advancement of monitoring and insulin delivery methods, it’s often now little more than another daily task to perform.

Though the underlying causes are not fully understood, diabetes results from either too little insulin being produced or ineffective use of it by the body. In Type 1 diabetes, for example, the islet cells of the pancreas fail to produce an amount of insulin adequate to allow blood glucose to enter cells where it’s used for energy. In Type 2, the cells may resist insulin’s action, once again leaving too much glucose in the blood.

But though they’re not completely known, experts agree that the causes of the different types of diabetes are generally a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental or lifestyle factors. In some cases, one or the other may dominate. Gestational diabetes, for example, affects about 3% of pregnant women usually from around 24-28 weeks into term. But it goes away after birth. Type 1, on the other hand, affects mostly juveniles and is largely genetic.

In all cases, the symptoms are usually roughly the same: excessively frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, sometimes accompanied by dizziness or stomach pains. Naturally, these common symptoms can have a number of causes. Anyone suspecting he or she has diabetes should be tested by a physician.

Those tests are simple and relatively painless, only requiring a small blood sample. Blood glucose level is measured, with normal running around 99 mg/dL, while diabetics have a level of 126 mg/dL or above. It may require more than one test to confirm the disease.

Once confirmed, regular blood glucose monitoring is a must. Fortunately, there are today many convenient ways to do that. Testing devices the size of a cell phone are common. A small sample of blood is smeared on a strip fed into the instrument, which delivers a number within seconds. Some recent devices measure glucose level through the skin using an infrared beam.

Treatments are equally easy for most diabetics. In some cases careful diet and appropriate exercise may be enough to keep the right glucose-insulin balance. In the usual case, insulin delivery is called for. But that too is much easier than in generations past. Small insulin-containing pens can deliver the exact right dose painlessly. Newer oral inhalers are on the market that have met with success.

Though no one wants to have to deal with diabetes, managing the disease is now easier than ever. The possible long term complications of untreated diabetes remain what they always were. By keeping them at bay with simple techniques, most diabetics can enjoy an active fulfilling life just as anyone else.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.