The Glycemic Load Diet

By Jim F

i-a4c53b66801704d2e647b89d63bf74e0-glycemicload.gifThe Glycemic Load Diet, by Rob Thompson MD is essentially a low carbohydrate diet. Thompson has applied more recent research in order to further refine or improve previous low-carb diets. Thompson claims that 22% of the population are insulin resistant (p. 12) and would benefit from reducing starchy carbohydrates (i.e. rice, potatoes, bread). The diet takes a relaxed approach:

Just don’t eat more than a quarter serving of flour products, potatoes, or rice at a time, and abstain from sugar-containing soft drinks and fruit juices (p. 45)

The idea is to reduce glycemic load (the impact that a serving of food has on blood glucose levels). There are no induction phases or meal plans or rigid rules. Thompson is not aiming for ketosis with this diet – claiming that it is not needed.

The Glycemic Load Diet also requires 30-40 minutes of walking every other day. The idea is to “activate slow-twitch muscle” – and therefore improve the insulin resistant condition.

Thompson blames the increase of starchy carbohydrates for the obesity problem, and correlates a number of statistics showing increased consumption of wheat products with rising obesity. This has certainly played a major part in the increase of body fat, but is not necessarily the whole story.

There is no doubt that we eat too much starchy carbohydrate. It is very easy to overeat, and – because we are a mostly sedentary people – it puts us on an energy roller coaster.

Low carbohydrate diets will always be around, and will continue to be helpful to a section of the population. Where things go wrong is when ‘joe average’ catches a 22-second news sound bite – showing someone gulping down steak and eggs – and then throws all the bread out of his pantry. The answer is to get informed – read and learn – and determine whether reducing starchy foods may help someone like you. Do this before attempting to completely restructure the way that you eat.

The Glycemic Load Diet is simple – but like most other diet books it fails to address the deeper issues that may be underlying many people’s eating issues. Long-term and permanent change is always the acid test – and such change is almost always the result of changing many facets of one’s life – not just ‘trying’ another diet.

The book (available at Amazon) contains about 80 pages of recipes. There are no prescriptive meal plans.

24 Comments

  1. Daniel

    I don’t think it’s any mystery why the human animal over eats–all other animals would, too, given the opportunities that most of us have. The human body is supremely efficient, and is geared towards survival–not the latest idea of what ‘fitness’ is, and especially not vanity. If people want to control their weight or, better yet, improve and maintain good body composition, they have to override their animal instincts to over eat in order to store fat for the coming lean times–because there aren’t any more lean times for most of us. Also, know that numbers on scale don’t mean much. How much fat vs muscle do you have? I’d rather have the physique of a 300 pound construction worker than 150 pound, just-fat-and-bones-with-a-destroyed-metabolism Subway Jared. Take a look at Mark’s Daily Apple–that guy’s got it right, and it’s easy. Good luck.

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  2. dorothyofok

    I purchased the book Glycemic Load Diet on line and I’m waiting for it to arrive. In the mean time I got my South Beach Diet book of the bookshelf, blew the dust off and started the 2 week phase. I now remember why I never got to phase 2 of the program. I went crazy when I started adding carbs back into my diet. I joined an online diet program and I’m following the low carb diet in principle. I’ve decided, if I want a carb I will have one and just be sure it’s a complex carb. I think I can make it a way of life if I just don’t cut out specific food groups.

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  3. Greg

    I’ve done a low GL diet for about 18 months. I’ve lost 33 pounds (208 down to 175) without changing anything else. No increase or decrease of exercise. Just changed the foods and still I eat like a pig, but a healthier pig.

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  4. Wiz

    [But the carbohdyrates of pasta, oat, brown rice and other starchy food will hit your blood only 5-6 hours after eating. ]

    In case you re-visit this page, would you be so kind to point to source demonstrating this? Because as far as I know, it contradicts what GI researchers have observed until now, i.e. that ALL carbohydrates reach their peak between 30 minutes to 1 ours after intake.

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  5. Wiz


    [Starchy vegetables and bread are the cause for the obesity epidemic? Sure, if they are fried, but really, the problem is not that we eat too much brown rice or too much steamed sweet potatoes and turnips.]

    Actually, there is a lot of factual evidence that this is exactly the real reason why we get fat. Far more evidence, actually, than for the theory that *fat* is getting us fat.

    Anyone following a good low-carb diet discovers the truth after just a couple of weeks.

    It’s about time that all the stupidities we’ve been fed since the 70’s about obesity (which reversed the previous common wisdom that starches and sugars, not fats or overeating, were the cause of obesity and diabetes), are finally exposed for what they are, bad science and bad politics.

    YES, (white) bread, potatoes, rice (and sugar) can very well be the cause of the obesity epidemics. It makes lots of sense, anyway you look at it, if you can just drop the current dogmas for a couple of minutes and look at the facts.

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  6. Daniel

    When I eat too much carbohydrates or whatever kind my need to overeat is triggered. That’s all you need to know about overeating. You can appreciate how much carbohydrate reduction or whatever kind decrease increase satiety and decrease the need to snack or to eat something else an hour after your meal. That’s why we over eat. It’s absolutely impossible to overeat on fat and proteins. It’s possible to overeat on fat only as long as they’re mixed with enough sugar and carbs. But try to overeat on butter without having cake, pancakes or rice to put it on. Try to overeat on hamburger without having a bun to eat it with. Try to overeat on whipped cream without having a cake to spread it on. It’s just impossible. Carbohydrates are the only food which trigger the need to overeat up to three times the calories you really need.

    The Glycemic Index is flawed because it measures the impact of a specific food on blood glucose only for two hours after eating. But the carbohdyrates of pasta, oat, brown rice and other starchy food will hit your blood only 5-6 hours after eating. According to the GI pasta is a perfect food and great for diabetics. Diabetics who care to test not few hours after eating but 5-6 hours after eating a plate of pasta, will have a surprise. And so will any person who needs to keep sugar spikes at bay.

    There are a lot of insulin resistance thin people. In fact a writer of Men Health found out to be insulin resistance and to have unstable blood sugar in spite of a sculpted body, hard training and a six-pack. His diet was simply to high in good carbohydrates. So it’s not that simple.

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  7. Wolf

    The Glycemic LOAD diet works, and of course if you watch calories. I lost 40 lbs. on it, and have maintained my weight loss for over a year ! Insulin resistance and diabetes is on my father’s side. This diet is one of the healthiest diets for your blood sugar, triglycerides, and keeping your good cholesterol up. If you don’t believe me, get a blood glucose meter, and test your blood sugar half hour after eating 2 pieces of bread , or a piece of cake !! A half hour after eating WHITE CARBS, your blood sugar will rise higher than with protein, fats, nuts, yogurt, and low glycemic fruits. !!! It is that SPIKE that tells your body to store fat with that energy!! Glycemic Load DIET and South Beach philosophy is a way of life for ME !!!

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  8. murf

    I think the one thing we have to keep in mind is that everyone is different. Some people respond well to low fat, higher (good) carbohydrate diets, while others, like myself, respond well to diets higher in protein and lower in starch. There are a couple of points to take into consideration. First, humans have relied on grain for millennia as a major source of nutrition, however, we did not have the refined sugars, nor the over-hybridized grains of today. No one needs the starch, as Thompson points out, that is contained in rice, potatoes, and grains…no matter how it’s prepared. Potatoes and cultivated rice are a fairly recent addition to the diet of those of us of Northern European descent and over the years, we have added more and more of these to our diet. Just like the starch used on shirts, it’s a filler, intended to stave off starvation, not be a primary source of nutrition. In the US in particular, whether it’s bread, or mac’n’cheese, or baked potatoes, we’ve allowed this filler to become a mainstay of our diets.

    Second is the proliferation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in EVERYTHING. Not only does HFCS add unwanted, unnecessary calories, it also prevents the production of leptin, the hormone that tells us when to stop eating. Check the labels…it lurks in everything.

    As far as sweet potatoes go…you probably can’t find anything healthier (or yummier 🙂 ), so go for it. As for turnips? Turnips, lima beans, and eggplant are the closest thing to proof that there might, indeed, be a devil after all–they are that nasty (to me, at least).

    Cheers!

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  9. Nancy

    I have been following the Glycemic Load Diet for only 10 days and have reduced my insulin medicine by half and my fasting blood sugar has dropped 30 points! This is good new for diabetics!

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  10. Dawn Hines

    My husband has been diagnosed a few weeks ago as a Diabetic. We are still in the testing stage to create a Baseline. I purchased this book in place of another (not knowing the difference) and am most happy with what I am learning. Since I have to keep track of what he eats, I have noticed a pattern in the Blood Sugar testing, already. Commercial soups with some sort of starch additives make his numbers go higher. Soups and meals without starches are lower. I have to believe there is some credibility to this GL Theory. BTW, my hubby is 84 and is handling this new diagnosis well, under the circumstances.

    I plan to purchase a number of the books to give as gifts. I am pleased with the short term results.

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  11. Walter Hackett

    BTW – the term “Glycemic Load” was coined at Harvard Medical School to explain the actual biological impact of foods on blood sugar. As Dr. Thompson points out, raw carrots are a “High GI” food however you’d have to eat, according to Harvard Medical School, nearly 2 pounds of carrots to raise your blood sugar significantly. Since glycemic load measures the impact of real life portions on blood sugar you can easily ascertain the impact of how much you’re eating on your blood sugar. The formula is a simple one, divide the GI of a food by 100 and multiply that result times the grams of available carbs in whatever food you’re eating. The result is the glycemic load. 20 or less is moderate, 10 or less is low.

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  12. Walter Hackett

    I bought the book and have been following it for months. It is a very common sense and easy to follow diet. It never says you can’t eat things like brown rice. It has sound science (the author is a board certified cardiologist) and, 90+ pounds later, I can assure you it is a “diet” I can follow easily for the rest of my life. The book also recommends more than every other day aerobic activity for those who are deskbound. Given you can buy it at Walmart.com for about $10.00 it sounds like most folks posting negative comments here are too afraid to lose weight to actually try something different. I’ve given away over a dozen copies of the book and everyone I’ve given it to loves it because it is something they can follow. I’ll add that items such as Dreamfields Pasta, Orowheat’s (and others) lower carb breads, new low carb tortillas and similar items make it much easier to enjoy foods excluded by diets such as Atkins. Dr. Thompson also recommends doing high intensity strength training in addition to regular aerobic exercise and does not view either as anything but essential. His point is that you don’t need to spend 3 hours in the gym every day to get in shape.

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  13. Weight Loss Coach

    Even though this diet is pointing people in the right direction it still has it’s flaws. This my years of research it believe and have tested that starchy breads and pastas are not cause of weight gain but more timing and lack of exercise. Timing is everything and is what bodybuilders live by every day. By eating these foods earily in the day and eating light at night they do not have to be excluded from your diet. I eat breads in tell after lunch and then focus on low glycemic vegtables, fruit, and protein. Exercise is the most important as 63% of people in the United States do not get enough exercise plus there nutrition is no better. Live free and eat and exercise right!

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  14. James

    And What do french fries, doughnuts, and white pasta have in common? Carbs and trans fats. No wander why we are sick these days.

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  15. TheBumbler

    Mmmm, sweet potatoes. So yummy!

    I have IR and, since being diagnosed, have researched the heck out of it. The studies that have been conducted on the effects of exercise on IR have demonstrated that weight training, or building fast-twitch muscle fibres, were far more beneficial over other forms of exercise. Those who solely performed cardiovascular exercises such as walking saw no significant decrease in symptoms of IR. That’s not to say, however, that improving one cardiovascular system is not worthwhile. I have to ask where he gets his information on the benefits of building slow-twitch muscle fibres since there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    I think it’s great that there is information on treating IR through lifestyle, and managing blood sugar does have an effect on helping someone with IR to see fat loss. Trust me – it is no small feat seeing even a small weight loss when you are insulin resistant. Did he mention, at all, the need to create a calorie deficit? Because, even with IR, we’re still subject to the rules of physics…

    Also, there are many people with IR who won’t simply loose fat by “just [not eating] more than a quarter serving of flour products, potatoes, or rice at a time, and abstain[ing] from sugar-containing soft drinks and fruit juices.” Many people also need insulin sensitizing medications to get the ball rolling.

    As someone who’s been slowly chipping away at my adipose tissues for the last nine months, if he didn’t talk at all about the emotional/mental side of weight loss, he has really missed the boat on this one. Mindset plays such a huge role and, with increasing links being made between depression and insulin resistance, emotional eating/disordered eating and mental health need to be addressed.

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  16. lowcarb_dave

    The Atkins diet, has higher phases that include lots of carbs, even grain!

    Dr. Atkins was a passionate believer that ‘not one diet fits all’.

    Some people who are really sensitive need that ketogenic level to get them losing.

    Glycemic Load Diet is just another name for a Low carb diet. It looks (rightly so) at the total carbohydrate intake as well as GI effect.

    I find it amusing how all these people are aware of Low GI, when years ago, nobody cared. All they cared about was calories and fat.

    They all have bagged Dr. Atkins, but he was a Low GI pioneer.

    I totally agree that the average joe reading about low carb in the paper then making up his own version, is the problem.

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  17. Nic

    This sounds interesting. The author also gets credibility points for not claiming that this diet is “the perfect solution for EVERYONE!” as many diet book authors do.

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  18. Leigh

    Thompson’s diet approach may be right for some people. As someone who is in that 22% range of insulin resistant, I cannot be relaxed about the grains that I eat. I agree with Helena that brown rice, sweet potatoes and turnips are not the problem. The problem is all of our grain is refined to the point of having no nutritional value whatsoever, and everything has corn syrup in it. I also agree that it is important to pay attention to the messages of our bodies – they will tell us when particular foods are not good for them. There is very little real food in its original form that is off limits for me.

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  19. Yan

    wait… I thought brown rice and sweet potatoes were LOW gi foods. or are those banned here too? *goes back to read*
    “activate slow-twitch muscle” lol. sorry I just find that really funny.
    But honestly, it’s not that we overeat starchy vegetables exactly, it’s that we OVEREAT- Period. It makes me kind of sad that everything is SO over-complicated these days. *sigh*
    Other than that though, I quite like the original GI diet It makes sense to me along with the Zone, but is less rigid.

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  20. Helena

    I think I stand on this topic where you stand on the milk topic from your previous post. Starchy vegetables and bread are the cause for the obesity epidemic? Sure, if they are fried, but really, the problem is not that we eat too much brown rice or too much steamed sweet potatoes and turnips. I do agree that they are not ideal foods (leafy green vegetables are much better), especially as you say, in our sedentary culture, but I also think it is good to keep some perspective.

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  21. iportion

    I like you feel there is not enough info in most diet book about why we over eat.

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    • Robert Conroy

      This is so silly. Only high insulin can make you gair weight and/or give you typre 2 diabetes. No 2 carbs really act the same on your blood sugar. The ADA wants you to count calories! This is their most stupid approach yet, after counting carbohydrates. I saw a post on Facebook saying diabetics should eat rice cakes – low calorie-check, low carbs-check, low glycemic load? Highest glycemic load of any food on earth – GL=72. So much for carb counting and calorie counting. Back to the drawing board for the ADA. Maybe fire the RDs and hire some real nutritionists who know something about diabetes nutrition.

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