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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;94(4):992-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.012138. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Calculating meal glycemic index by using measured and published food values compared with directly measured meal glycemic index.

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Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.



Glycemic index (GI) testing is normally based on individual foods, whereas GIs for meals or diets are based on a formula using a weighted sum of the constituents. The accuracy with which the formula can predict a meal or diet GI is questionable.


Our objective was to compare the GI of meals, obtained by using the formula and by using both measured food GI and published values, with directly measured meal GIs.


The GIs of 7 foods were tested in 30 healthy people. The foods were combined into 3 meals, each of which provided 50 g available carbohydrate, including a staple (potato, rice, or spaghetti), vegetables, sauce, and pan-fried chicken.


The mean (95% CI) meal GIs determined from individual food GI values and by direct measurement were as follows: potato meal [predicted, 63 (56, 70); measured, 53 (46, 62)], rice meal [predicted, 51 (45, 56); measured, 38 (33, 45)], and spaghetti meal [predicted, 54 (49, 60); measured, 38 (33, 44)]. The predicted meal GIs were all higher than the measured GIs (P < 0.001). The extent of the overestimation depended on the particular food, ie, 12, 15, and 19 GI units (or 22%, 40%, and 50%) for the potato, rice, and spaghetti meals, respectively.


The formula overestimated the GI of the meals by between 22% and 50%. The use of published food values also overestimated the measured meal GIs. Investigators using the formula to calculate a meal or diet GI should be aware of limitations in the method. This trial is registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry as ACTRN12611000210976.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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