April 30/Mumbai, India/The Times of India -- Do not just count calories, check the glycemic index of each foodstuff as well. Doctors and nutritionists want Indians to learn this new health mantra in order to check the twin epidemics of diabetes and heart diseases.

"Foods should be marked and labeled as low or high on the glycemic index (GI) so that people can make healthy choices,'' said Dr. Shashank Joshi, endocrinologist and editor of medical journals.

Both calories and GI are measurements of how food affects one's metabolism. Calories is a measure of the total energy one's body receives from a food item, while GI is a relatively new concept that tells how quickly one's body can convert carbohydrates into blood sugar.

The need for GI-consciousness, say doctors, is essential if people want to watch their weight, control their blood sugar and stay healthy. "A food with high GI releases sugar instantly that could lead to fluctuations in sugar levels or increase wear and tear of tissues,'' said Joshi. Low GI foods, in contrast, increase the blood sugar as well as insulin levels gradually. "We, in fact, have asked the government to make such labelling mandatory,'' said Joshi.

Speaking at a seminar on "Placing the glycemic index at the centre of healthy food choices" in Bangalore, experts said that 70% of the Indian diet is made up of carbohydrates. "Hence, it is important to watch the GI of the food we eat,'' said nutritionist Naini Setalvad. She gave the example of rice. "Indians love longer grain, but they should check on the GI of rice before buying it. Lower GI is better,'' she said.

A survey titled “GUIDe Study” (“Glycemic Index-Usage, Interpretation in Diabetes & Well-being”) released during the seminar showed that Mumbaikars were second only to Bangalore in awareness about GI. "Our survey found 50% of Bangaloreans and 47% of Mumbaikars were aware of GI,'' said Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi of Apollo Hospital, Bangalore. Around 94% of Mumbai's dieticians who participated in the survey felt that GI was an important tool for reducing the incidences of lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease and cancer.

 From the April 30, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily Update