Myths busted: Is the low-GI diet just another fad?
Is the low GI diet out-of-date, with more effective diets now recommended? Professor Jennie Brand-Miller sets the record straight.
The Cabbage Soup Diet. The Lemon Detox Diet. The South Beach Diet. With so many books, websites and diet products available, how can you tell if a diet is ‘real’ and produces long-lasting results?
One telltale sign of a fad diet is its longevity. It burns brightly for a time, then crashes and burns. It usually involves a pseudoscientific idea (think ‘the blood group diet’) or beliefs that eating specific foods (e.g. grapefruit) will cure disease or offer quick weight loss. It may involve special products or nutrient supplements that you must purchase from the creator. Most importantly, a fad diet is not supported by scientific evidence.
However, the low-GI (Glycemic Index) diet is anything but a fad. It was developed 30 years ago and the first study results were published in the world’s most prestigious nutrition journal (the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Initially, it was met with scepticism and even derision from most health professionals, yet over the following decades, the low-GI diet has turned out positive results again and again.
According to the principles of the low-GI diet, foods with a low GI (such as peaches, broccoli and ultigrain bread) raise your body’s blood sugar level slowly, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. In fact, adding a low-GI food to a meal lowers the GI of the entire meal.
One of the largest studies on the GI diet has just been published in the top-ranked New England Journal of Medicine. Called the ‘DiOGenes Study’, it compared five different diets for their ability to prevent weight re-gain after a period of quick weight loss. A low-GI diet and a high protein diet were compared head to head. The findings surprised even the investigators – the low-GI diet was just as effective as eating more protein in helping people maintain their weight loss. In fact, the study revealed that a combined diet of both high protein and low GI foods was twice as effective as either diet alone.
Often the only evidence presented by the creators of a fad diet is a testimonial or anecdotes from friends and family. They will claim you can eat all you want and still have rapid weight loss – and make claims that generally sound too good to be true. But if you choose a low-GI diet, you can rest assured that you are following a scientifically proven strategy that not only helps control weight, but also assists in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Bon appétit!
The bottom line
Most diets come and go, but 30 years of research shows that the low GI diet isn’t a fad. It’s really a lifestyle change proven to work.