NutraChampion episode 25
LISTEN: Time to go low: GI research pioneer Prof Jennie Brand-Miller on low GI product innovation
Professor Jennie Brand-Miller is the professor of human nutrition at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney.
She is also the president of the Glycemic Index Foundation and sits on the editorial board of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Over the past 40 years, she has devoted her research to the relationship between foods, GI, and their impact on human health – after she first came across a research report by British professor David J. Jenkins on the GI of different foods in 1981.
The term GI refers to the measurement of the body’s absorption of carbohydrates. A value over 70 is considered high in GI and a value of 55 is considered low in GI.
As compared to high GI foods, low GI foods will be digested and absorbed slower by the body, in turn, avoiding a sudden and unhealthy spike in post-meal glucose level.
The sudden increase in post-meal glucose level can also lead to the glycation of body cells. One example is the glycated haemoglobin. These are red blood cells bounded by glucose and exist in higher levels in pre- and diabetic patients.
Prof Brand-Miller, who also runs the Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS), believes that there is huge potential for food and beverage companies to produce low GI options suitable for both diabetic patients and healthy individuals.
However, she also recognises that some companies might find that it expensive to test the GI levels in their products due to the amount of time and effort required.
“Testing the GI is expensive because it is a biological test. It means that you are taking blood samples in human beings. It is not the same as just measuring the amount of fats or protein in food.
“But you know, it is no more expensive than having a one-page advertisement in a magazine.
“It is no more expensive than what it is to market foods on TV or on radio or in the press.
“It is really a marketing tool that I think presses the right buttons in consumers. I think most consumers have a feel of what it means to have high or low blood glucose levels. They talk about sugar rushes and they talk about sugar lows.
“And I think consumers understand that it is best to have few fluctuations in the blood glucose level as much as possible, and so, I think low GI is a marketing tool. I think we can use it as a shortcut to what a healthy diet is,” she said.
Prof Brand-Miller also explained how GI testing worked, existing research findings, and how companies could develop low GI offerings.
Listen the podcast to find out more.