Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Sugar equivalents in foods

Public Health Collaboration (2016b)
I read a very interesting article the other day on Type 2 Diabetes, the glycaemic index, and obesity. A paper by Unwin, Haslam and Livesey (2016) looked at how many doctors "erroneously assumed table sugar to affect blood glucose far more than the carbohydrate in a baked potato", while on the other side of the comparison, GPs "wrongly assumed that carbohydrate in different foods had a similar effect on blood glucose" (2016, p. 1). The researchers simplified the questions for doctors and their patients to ask about food to two: how carby is it, and how sugary is that particular carb?

A much simpler set of questions to ask.

They calculated the glycaemic loading as the equivalent of a 4 gram teaspoon of sugar, and created tables of carbohydrate foods which are regularly eaten. Looking at the tables of differences in breads, common foods, breakfast cereal, fruits, a 'healthy breakfast' shows clearly how much simple carbohydrate is in each portion (click on the infographic links here; Public Health Collaboration, 2016a). 

Further, check out the portion size: some of these are tiny. For example, cornflakes are 30g containing 8.4 teaspoons of sugar. My husband would easily eat 90g of those for breakfast, which works out being the equivalent of 26 spoons of sugar. Ouch. Quite an impact on both blood glucose and sugar consumption.

I would have liked to have seen them examine some of the other starchy vegetables such as corn, squash, beetroot, carrots, and pumpkin. I don't eat these as they give me migraines (see here), so seeing the sugar equivalents in a table would have been helpful to for me to better understand the drivers of the condition. 

The paper discusses the likely impact of sugar and high GI foods on Type 2 diabetes, reaching the conclusion that Ancel Keys did the human race a disservice by his focus on low fat, high carbohydrate treatments for diabetes. Other interesting aspects of the article for me were a definition of what is considered to be a low-carbohydrate diet (equivalent to or under 130 grams of carbohydrate per day), and a history of diabetes treatment from the 18th century onwards (Unwin, Haslam & Livesey, 2016).

I am already on a very low-carb diet (under 30g per day), and feel very well for it. Following reading this paper, I don't think I will be altering it any time soon. 



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