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Traditional Indian diets are rich in dietary fibre and wholegrains, which generally have a lower GI than more refined grains. However, similar to many other countries, there has been a transition to more refined grains over the last few decades. This may be one factor contributing to the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Indian population. 


With this in mind, researchers from the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre in India have recently published two papers exploring the role of glycemic index in South Indian diets, showing several benefits of choosing low GI foods. 

In the first paper published in Nutrients, they reported on the findings of a randomised controlled trial investigating the effect of a low GI diet on blood glucose levels and body composition in people with type 2 diabetes in South India. A total of 40 people aged 35-65 years were recruited and randomised to follow either a low GI diet plan or their usual diet (the control group) for 6 months. Dietary advice was reinforced by the study dietitian throughout the study period. Compared to the control group, people in the low GI diet group had significantly greater reductions in weight, body mass index (BMI) and body fat levels, including abdominal fat. They also had significantly greater reductions in HbA1c (a measure of average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months). 

The second paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported on the findings from 80 subjects from the same study, this time looking at cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) risk factors. Again, the researchers found greater reductions in weight and HbA1c levels in the low GI diet group compared to the control group. They also found greater reductions in insulin levels, insulin resistance, triglycerides (blood fats), C-reactive protein (CRP) and apolipoprotein B (ApoB). ApoB is the main protein found in LDL-cholesterol and high levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. CRP is a marker of inflammation in the body and is also associated with heart disease risk as it can indicate inflammation in the blood vessels to the heart. 

Taken together, the findings of these two studies suggest that switching to a low GI diet can help with weight loss, improve blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity and improve cardiovascular risk factors in South Indian people with type 2 diabetes. 

The low GI diet in these studies included foods with a low GI that are traditionally used in South Indian cuisine. These included red rice, barley and whole wheat flour puttu, rolled or steel-cut oats, Rose Matta rice, broken wheat, green gram, and wholewheat flour roti. 

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Kate Marsh    
Kate Marsh is an is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, Credentialled Diabetes Educator and health and medical writer with a particular interest in plant-based eating and the dietary management of diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).    
Contact: Via her website www.drkatemarsh.com.au.