June 11/Boston/CNW - An international committee of leading nutrition scientists from 10 countries on three continents released an important scientific consensus statement. They concluded that carbohydrate quality (measured by the glycemic index or GI) matters and that the carbohydrates present in different foods affect post-meal blood sugar differently, with important health implications. They also confirmed that there is convincing evidence from a large body of research that low glycemic index/glycemic load (GI/GL) diets reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, help control blood glucose in people with diabetes, and may also help with weight management. The committee recommended inclusion of glycemic index and glycemic load in national dietary guidelines and food composition tables, and that packaging labels and symbols on low-GI foods should be considered. They also confirmed low GI measurements complement other ways of characterizing carbohydrate foods (such as fiber and whole grain content), and should be considered in the context of an overall healthy diet.

The consensus statement was the culmination of the International Scientific Consensus Summit on Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Glycemic Response, organized June 6-7, 2013, in Stresa, Italy, by two nonprofits, Oldways and the Nutrition Foundation of Italy. At the summit, scientists reviewed the latest research on glycemic index (a measure of carbohydrate quality), glycemic load (a measure that combines carbohydrate quality and quantity in real-world portion sizes), and overall issues of glycemic response (how the body's management of blood sugar is affected by both food and lifestyle, over time).

This consensus statement on how different foods affect blood sugar is especially important, given the rapid rise in obesity and diabetes. The scientists stressed the need to communicate information on GI/GL to the general public and health professionals. This is why Oldways and the Nutrition Foundation of Italy (NFI) -- two nonprofits with a long history of consensus meetings -- teamed up to facilitate this scientific meeting of the minds. "Top scientists and researchers presented their newest research and networked for a day and a half," said Andrea Poli, scientific director of NFI. Oldways president Sara Baer-Sinnott further explained, "Then they deliberated for four hours, without media or any industry attendees present, to develop a consensus statement designed to clarify current consumer understanding and guide future research in this important area."

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the participating scientists, said, "Given essentially conclusive evidence that high GI/GL diets contribute to risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reduction in GI and GL should be a public health priority."

David Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, Canada Research chair in Nutrition and Metabolism, in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and widely acknowledged as the originator of the GI concept, announced that the scientists will continue to work together. "We have formed an international Carbohydrate Quality Consortium to collaborate and share research, with an overall goal of improving public health," he commented.