News Briefs

Lower GI diet cuts inflammation even in well-controlled diabetes
One hundred and sixty two adults with well-managed diabetes took part in a Canadian study reported in AJCN (January 2008) to see if a low GI diet could offer any additional benefits. The authors found that the best measure of blood glucose control (glycated hemoglobin or A1c) showed no further improvement but C-reative protein levels (CRP – a protein produced in the liver and reportedly a good predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease) was 30% less in those on a lower GI diet compared with those on two other healthy diets. That spells less inflammation and therefore lower risk of all diseases with an inflammatory component, including heart disease and osteoarthritis.


The researchers set out to compare the effects of changing carb quality (its GI) and carb quantity in managing type 2 diabetes. At the outset of the year-long trial, all the participants already had optimal glycemic control by diet alone (HbA1C 6.0–7.0). After 12 months, the researchers report that while long-term HbA1C was not affected by either the quality or quantity of carb in the diets, two hour post-meal glucose levels and CRP were significantly reduced in those on the lower GI diet.

GI Group: This study is one of the best of its kind, but what a pity the authors recruited subjects who were so well controlled that further improvements were unlikely. If we want to nit-pick, we could say that what the authors called 'the low GI diet' is not really a low GI diet at all. Its GI of 55 is not much lower than what the average person in the developed world eats right now (i.e. the average diet has a GI of 54–58, glucose = 100). What we now know from observational/cohort studies is that the GI of the diet of the people in the lowest quintile (20% of the population) is about 40–45. Similarly, the randomised controlled trials that have shown positive affects of low GI diets on the management of existing diabetes also have an average GI of around 45. Therefore, you need to lower the average GI of the diet to these levels to see a reduction in the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and to see significant improvements in their management. It’s achievable. How?

Substitute low for high GI foods in your everyday meals and snacks, especially in the breads and cereals you choose. Breakfast in particular is your opportunity to go for gold by selecting a low GI breakfast cereal. Don't assume that adding milk to crispy flakes makes it a low GI meal. If you don’t eat breakfast cereal, make sure you choose a low GI bread for your toast, and of course low GI breads are a must for those sandwiches at lunch.

6 healthy habits made easy
Should you be eating more of this or doing more of that for your long-term health and wellbeing? Japanese researchers have come up with a handy way to remember 6 key health habits to reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. Just think ‘none of 1, less of 2, more of 3.’


The researchers tested these 6 healthy habits with over 18,000 people who attended the Health Science Centre at Jikei University in Tokyo and found that those who practised more of these 6 health habits had less risk factors of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high blood fats and abdominal obesity). Here are the stats: 7% of those practising all 6 habits had no metabolic syndrome symptoms; of the people who did not practise any of the healthy habits, 20% had metabolic syndrome symptoms.
Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, Vol 1, Issue 2, May 2007.

Seeds of success
Salba® (the trade name of a variety of white chia seeds cultivated through selective plant breeding) may help regulate blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease in people with diabetes report Canadian researchers in November 2007 Diabetes Care. Dr Vladamir Vuksan and a team at Toronto’s St Michael's Hospital in a single blind cross-over study assigned 20 otherwise healthy adults with well controlled diabetes to supplement their diet with Salba (or wheat bran as the control) for 12 weeks while maintaining their standard diabetes treatments. The Salba seeds were ground into flour and served in bread made by the team or sprinkled on food. Their total intake was approximately 37 grams or 3–4 tablespoons of Salba a day. Compared with the control, the Salba reduced systolic blood pressure, on average, by 6 points mmHg, reduced low grade body inflammation (as measured by C-reactive protein) and made blood thinner and less prone to clotting. There were no changes in body weight.


‘Salba seems to possess important cardio-protective properties in type 2 diabetes by reducing conventional and emerging heart disease risk factors that are associated with diabetes’ said Dr Vladimir Vuksan, research-scientist at the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital and professor in the faculty of medicine, University of Toronto. ‘It is an exceptionally rich source of vegetable protein, calcium, magnesium and iron, with antioxidant levels higher than in some berries. Simple addition of Salba to one’s diet not only helps patients reach their target treatment goal but also allows patients to take their health into their own hands to improve their diet and health outcomes.’ While the study found no ill effects, Vuksan cautions that, because of Salba's ability to thin blood, anyone on anticoagulants, blood thinners other blood pressure medications should consult with their doctors before taking it.

You can eat the seeds raw or use ground seeds in baked goods such as breads, cakes and biscuits or made into a porridge. Soaked seeds make a rather gelatinous drink – Mexico’s chia fresca is chia seeds soaked in fruit juice. A number of websites have recipes. But remember, cooking with Salba or chia doesn’t necessarily make a recipe a healthy one. And a word of caution before you rush out and invest in a kilo of chia, it’s just a supplement not a magic bullet. You still have to stick with those healthy lifestyle habits described in the previous piece ('6 healthy habits made easy') including eating better (and probably less) and exercising more.

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica), once a staple food of the Aztecs (along with corn and beans), are the seeds of an annual ‘herb’ from the mint family. Chia is grown commercially today for it is seriously rich in omega-3 seeds – they are currently the highest known plant source of this essential fatty acid. They also have heaps of dietary fibre (mostly insoluble), some protein and virtually no carbs. They are gluten free. GI News readers may be more familiar with chia than they think – those are chia sprouts growing on popular ‘Chia Pets’.
Diabetes Care 30: 2804-2810 and the St. Michael’s Hospital press release & backgrounder.

Cooking boosts nutrients
Steaming broccoli increases its levels of cancer-fighting compounds say scientists from the Universities and Parma and Naples writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (December 26, 2007).


Looking at the effects of boiling, steaming, and frying on the phytochemical content (polyphenols, carotenoids, glucosinolates and ascorbic acid) of carrots, zucchini (courgettes) and broccoli, they found an overall increase in antioxidant levels after cooking. Boiling and steaming preserved antioxidant compounds better, especially carotenoids in all the veggies and ascorbic acid in carrots and zucchini. Steamed veggies maintained their texture better than boiled ones. There was a higher loss of antioxidants in the fried veggies. ‘Our findings defy the notion that processed vegetables offer lower nutritional quality and also suggest that for each vegetable a preferred cooking method to preserve the nutritional qualities,’ say Nicoletta Pellegrini and colleagues. Download the PDF article.

What's New?

Norene’s Healthy Kitchen
Eat your way to good health with Norene Gilletz (Whitecap). The 600 recipes in the book are heart healthy and suitable for people with diabetes or wanting to lose weight. What’s special about this book compared with so many that come across the editor’s desk is that the recipes are extremely well written with clear guidelines about equipment and cooking times. Nothing is left to chance. There’s also a terrific introductory section covering the glycemic index, quick meal planning tips for people with diabetes, shaking the salt habit, how to grill it right, food safety and cooking/baking substitutions. There are chef’s secrets and variations with many of the recipes and all have a nutritional analysis. Norene Gilletz is a leading authority on kosher cooking, an IACP Certified Culinary Professional and freelance food writer. Her motto is ‘food that’s good for you should taste good.’ We completely agree!

Culinary Solutions Gourmania Inc, Toronto, Canada – ph: (1) 416-226-2466; fax: (1) 416-226-2512

The Low GI Family Cookbook

By Kaye Foster-Powell, Anneka Manning, Jennie Brand-Miller and Philippa Sandall (Hachette Australia).
The US/Canadian edition will be available March 2008.

Parents know that the benefits of healthy eating are enormous, but getting their kids to actually eat healthy foods can be another challenge altogether! Whether you have a toddler or teenager, this book has been written to make it easier for anyone to combine (deliciously) the essentials of healthy eating with the proven benefits of low GI carbs. It’s about parents and children cooking together, eating together and developing healthy eating habits for life say the authors in the introduction. There are over 100 easy-to-prepare recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, main meals and sides, desserts and sweet treats packed with healthy, low GI ingredients that the whole family will love.

But that’s not all. The comprehensive introductory section includes 7-day menu plans for pre-schoolers, school age kids and teens, plus tips on raising food-smart kids, everyday healthy eating guidelines, making mealtimes happier, the problem with drinking those kilojoules, treats and takeaways, fuelling active kids, coping with food allergies and intolerances, handling fussy eaters, filling hollow legs and what to do if your child is overweight, or underweight.


Flax, fiber and GI
If you want to learn more about the science and marketing behind GI products as well as the impact that fibre-rich flax has on lowering the GI of products, register for a free Webinar on 28 February HERE.

Get started on one of those six healthy habits mentioned above with FebFast, an Australian community education and awareness campaign that invites people to do something good for their own bodies, and someone else's by sacrificing their alcohol intake for up to one month, during February. Participants are sponsored by friends and family, with funds distributed to organisations that support young people struggling with substance use. Don't be deterred if you are reading this on Feb 2, 3 or 10, the FebFast Team say you can join up anytime. For more information, check out

Are you a young adult living at home
If you are a young adult in your 20s or 30s, still living in the family home (and possibly you don't know much about cooking and less about nutrition), Freehand TV would love to hear from you. They are producing a new TV show for SBS in Australia and looking for families with adult kids that aren't in any rush to move out of the family home. If you're interested in taking part or would like some more information, please email your story and contact details to: OR call Caroline on 02 8514 5431