Health & Spirit

Nutrition News: Glycemic Index

Charlyn Fargo on

A serving of 50 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting is reasonable for a food such as rice, which has 53 grams of carbs per cup. But for beets, a GI ranking of 64 is a little misleading. Since beets have just 13 grams of carbs per cup, a person would need to consume nearly 4 cups of beets in order to cause that spike in blood sugar levels.

A better approach is to use the glycemic load, or GL, a formula that corrects for potentially misleading GI by combining portion size and GI into one number. The carbohydrate content of the actual serving is multiplied by the food's GI, then that number is divided by 100. So for a cup of beets, the GL would be: 13 times 64 = 832 divided by 100 = a GL of 8.3.

As a frame of reference, a GL higher than 20 is considered high, between 11 and 19 is considered moderate, and 10 or less is considered low.

The bottom line: Look for the glycemic load. Use the glycemic index as a tool to identify lower-glycemic foods that are more nutrient-dense, as well as higher glycemic foods that are higher in refined carbohydrates.

Q and A

Q: Can garcinia promote weight loss?

A: Effects of Garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit, have been promoted for weight loss for years. The fruit is a source of hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is also an ingredient in many diet formulas. Test-tube and animal research suggests that garcinia extract and its HCA in particular, may help promote weight loss by suppressing appetite and inhibiting the storage of excess calories from carbohydrates as fat. But there has bene little good human research on garcinia. Moreover, HCA is short acting and would have an effect only when consumed during the hour before eating meals high in carbs (not fat). Even then, the effect may not be significant. A meta-analysis of 12 clinical trials, published in the Journal of Obesity in 2011, found that garcinia extract produced only very small changes in weight. And the researchers noted that the studies reviewe3d were short (none longer than 12 weeks), small and rife with methodological problems. Plus they found side effects, including nausea and headaches. In a 2014 study in Phytotherapy Research, researchers looked at 43 overweight or obese women who took garcinia extract or a placebo daily for two months. There was no significant change in weight or body composition. What's most concerning about garcinia are possible adverse effects in the liver, as described in human case reports and animal studies. For instance, an animal study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2013 found that garcinia can induce liver damage by increasing inflammation, free radicals and the formation of excess connective tissue. In at least two case reports, people taking garcinia developed liver failure and required a liver transplant. Give the potential serious risks and the lack of evidence of meaningful benefits, we recommend avoiding garcinia and diet formulas containing it. -- University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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