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By David Mendosa

Last Update: May 16, 2003

When Jennie Brand-Miller and an associate published their "International Tables of Glycemic Index" in 1995, she organized the results of the studies of hundreds of foods for the first time.

The new edition…addresses the concept of the glycemic load.

The glycemic index ranks foods on how they affect blood glucose levels within two or three hours after eating. Carbohydrates that we digest quickly have the highest glycemic indexes. Our blood glucose levels shoot up fast and high.

I became fascinated with the glycemic index when my diabetes was diagnosed in 1994. Putting together glycemic indexes for a few foods that I found in various publications, I created glycemic index pages on my Web site.

Jennie authorized me to summarize the glycemic indexes of those foods listed in the International Tables and in her book, The G.I. Factor, first published in Australia in 1996. The glycemic index pages been the most popular part of my site, logging about one million hits per year.

In addition to her book, which was published in the U.S. two years ago as The Glucose Revolution and a sequel, The Glucose Revolution Life Plan, published here this year, Jennie has also written hundreds of articles for peer-reviewed journals. Widely recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on the glycemic index, Jennie is Associate Professor of Human Nutrition in the Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Sydney, Australia.

It wasn't until last September that Jennie had her own GI Website at the University of Sydney. I wondered why she waited so long.

"Because I am an academic and I have other priorities," she told me when I called on the phone a few days ago. It was our first conversation after exchanging many e-mails over the past five years.

Jennie's Web site has the most comprehensive listing of glycemic index tests you can find anywhere. The site includes all of the foods listed in the books in a searchable database. It also includes dozens of Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS) tests since 1999.

The site also explains the new GI symbol that food packages in Australia, New Zealand, and North America will soon have. Shortly, however, they will separate the symbol program onto a separate site.

Jennie expects the program to be established in Australia and New Zealand before the end of the year. She says she is working closely with Thomas Wolever of the University of Toronto. They hope to use the same symbol in North America, but Jennie expects approval to lag a couple of years behind Australia.

Meanwhile, Jennie continues to update her main glycemic index publications. "We have revised the 'International Tables' and have just about doubled the number of foods," she says. "We've used the same scientific format as before with full referencing, and we have given as much individual data as we can."

Jennie will shortly send that manuscript off to the journal that published the original "International Tables," The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, it might take a year for it to be published.

She is also revising The Glucose Revolution to address questions people have sent her. The publisher tells me that he expects to publish the second edition next fall.

"The major thing is that I am going to add are those foods like meat and chicken that haven't been tested. I will put them in the tables and have a little asterisk to say that they can't have a glycemic index." That's because they don't have any carbohydrates.

The other big change is that the new edition will address the concept of the glycemic load, an offshoot of the glycemic index popularized by Harvard nutritionist Walter Willett. The glycemic load of a food is its glycemic index multiplied by the carbohydrate content of a standard serving in grams.

"It could be a useful concept," Jennie says. "If you have a lot of carbohydrates of high glycemic index sources, then you can expect more adverse effects. If you have a very low carbohydrate diet and most of that is high glycemic index, it probably doesn't matter."

What worries Jennie is people using only the glycemic load. Fatty foods will rank low.

"The problem comes from trying to use any one factor as a measure of quality," she says.

"But I agree with Walter in principle that the glycemic load is a good concept," Jennie concludes. "If you eat large amounts of carbohydrates and high glycemic index foods, you are asking for trouble." 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


Subsequent to the publication of this article, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the “Revised International Table of Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) Values—2002” in its July 2002 issue and Marlowe and Company in New York published The New Glucose Revolution (2003). Jennie Brand-Miller was also promoted to full professor.

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