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Low-glycemic diet best for diabetics, study shows

December 16, 2008 |  1:38 pm

Glycemic1People with diabetes need to choose their foods carefully to minimize the effects of the illness. But science hasn't always provided a clear picture of the best way to do that. For example, the findings of studies examining the usefulness of a diet high in low-glycemic foods to improve blood-sugar control and risk factors for cardiovascular disease have been mixed.

However, research published today shows that people with Type 2 diabetes who consume low-glycemic-index diets had greater improvements in their glycemic control and cardiovascular disease risk factors compared with people on a diet that emphasized fiber. Low-glycemic foods include nuts, beans and lentils. These foods break down slowly in the body and therefore do not raise blood sugar as quickly has high-glycemic foods, such as white bread and starchy vegetables. In contrast, high-fiber diets slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption, thus helping control blood sugar.

The study, by researchers at the University of Toronto, assigned 210 patients with Type 2 diabetes to a low-glycemic-index diet or a high-cereal fiber diet for six months. The participants were also treated with medications to control blood sugar. Those on the low-glycemic-index improved more than the other patients on several measures, such as blood-sugar control and cholesterol levels.

Although the improvements were modest, adopting a low-glycemic-index diet may be important because medications to improve glycemic control in Type 2 diabetes are often ineffective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, said the lead author of the study, Dr. David J.A. Jenkins, in a news release. People with Type 2 diabetes have a two- to four-times increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study was published in Journal of the American Medical Assn.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times