2

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How much glycemic load is too much?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created December 07, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Does anyone have any data on how much glycemic load will trigger an insulin response high enough to kick in all the negative fat retaining/fat accumulation processes in the body? I understand this will vary from person to person, but I'm trying to manage the GL carefully and need to know if I eat foods with a GL of 10 for breakfast (my only small carb amount I allow myself) will I go into fat retention, while at 5 I'm likely to be OK...or is it more like 20 is too much and 10 is likely to be OK. Looking for an order of magnitude answer, please, nothing exact...

6cdc6b1e75690cfcc4804a6c9eaa910a

(2171)

on December 08, 2011
at 09:32 AM

Travis - not sure I agree. I've always been active, and I've always been fat. I am now learning that my problem is carbs. I know it's n=1 (ooh get me, I'm learning the lingo!)...but I'm just trying to understand my body more and maybe some general principles along the way. Maybe I'm just simple-minded, but it helps me to focus on 1 thing at a time. Keeping carbs low, controlling insulin seems to do it for me. I fluctuate and want to know if my 1 piece of rye bread may be the problem... ROB - sounds like a blast (literally) except the bananas - always hated them so no issue to leave them out!

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on December 08, 2011
at 01:03 AM

I'll tell you how much glycemic load is too much...eat 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes, 2 bananas, and a cup of blueberries for a meal...god...I literally thought I was going to faint. I was just testing how much carbs I could handle at once. It wasn't a pretty experience.

D12142c8cafb16d9af10b3362cb8fb62

(1590)

on December 07, 2011
at 11:55 PM

Travis I used to think that too but I don't see much evidence for it. I mean excess carbs will increase glycogen stores and after that converted to fats (mainly saturated); excess fat just gets stored so the ability to store the energy is equally as easy in both cases (if not more easy to store fat due to carbohydrate's termic effect). There's plenty of high carb eaters who aren't obese or overweight, the Chinese and Japanese aren't depleting their glycogen stores everyday. Neither are the Kitavans. Excess energy is less problematic for the active though in my opinion.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on December 07, 2011
at 10:55 PM

Carbs are only a problem for the sedentary. If you're truly active, they are fine.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 10:03 PM

Andy, if you're talking to me, I have no idea what you're talking about. AP had a pretty good archive of Atkins pictures dating to the late 60's - 5 or 6 total - but enough to get an idea. My grandpa is important to me because of my genetics, because my dad has outlived him by 8 years and counting on a better diet, and I have a raft of relatives on the other side who fit the same 50's to 80's diet and activity profile. I lack paleos to compare with so Atkins becomes a handy N=1 comparison point. Despite his great wealth I see the same CV problems and appearance as my SAD relatives.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on December 07, 2011
at 09:17 PM

I'm too lazy to dig it up but there's a study showing that bran cereal compared to white cereal has a lower GI due to the increased protein content stimulating increased insulin secretion. Change in blood glucose = rate in - rate out. Insulin increases rate out, fat decreases rate in.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on December 07, 2011
at 09:16 PM

@Andy obviously I agree that certain foods are harder to overeat, but it has nothing to do with insulin, and Taubes is not saying that. @thhq adding moderate amounts of fat lowers glycemic index due to slowing of gastric emptying (giving the body a better chance to clear the glucose into tissue). Adding protein lowers through insulin. Having protein and fat in every meal, at least in moderate amounts, helps control blood sugar best.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 07, 2011
at 08:38 PM

Based on ... your sample set of two?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 07:44 PM

Addition of 0 glycemic fat or protein to high glycemic foods acts like weight ratio blending. A candy bar or a Twinkie have lower glycemic index than sugar and starch because of the fat. I'm not sure this has much to do with insulin.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 07, 2011
at 07:32 PM

The point I believe Mr Taubes would make is that it's a lot easier to control that energy balance with certain foods than others - not that fat-loss is the top priority in any case.

D12142c8cafb16d9af10b3362cb8fb62

(1590)

on December 07, 2011
at 06:16 PM

Even the twinkie diet worked. It gets boring so you eat less and your body releases fat to meet the calorie difference; no hunger is the key. If you're hungry you will not likely succede.

D12142c8cafb16d9af10b3362cb8fb62

(1590)

on December 07, 2011
at 06:11 PM

The point isn't that carbs are the problem. Too much food is; now it's more complicated than that but the principle is there. Both low carb and low fat diets work; it's just that low fat diets often end up being unhealthy, unsustainable and too low protein (for satiety purposes). Ever heard about the guy who only ate potatoes for 2 months?

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 07, 2011
at 06:05 PM

I don’t think Glycemic Load was really meant to be used the way you want to use it. If you want some numbers to add-up and decide whether you are going to gain weight or lose weight, then “calories” probably come the closest to this goal.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 07, 2011
at 05:58 PM

You might need to try asking another question then :) Purists will be offended by both confusing paleo with no carb and low carb. If you're looking for numbers, aim for 50-100g of carbs a day, but the critical point is about what foods you're actually eating. 50g of carbs from colourful veg, and 50g from sweet potatoes etc. is a whole lot different to 100g from bread. It's about getting your hormones to function healthily and normally, which will allow you to lose weight irrespective of your precise macronutrient ratios.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:34 PM

Drinking a glass of water does not likely significantly alter the insulin levels of eating a piece of toast, BUT it would cut the Glycemic Load in half. That is one of the other problems with artificial measures like Glycemic Load.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:28 PM

"the answer would alwways be, dpends what you eat it with" - EXACTLY. You have to look at the whole meal. GI and GL is just a scoring system to rate one individual item against another individual item but tells little about the meal as a whole. Glyemic response can be altered by protein, fat, and fiber. Glycemic Load is just a number that weighs heavily on the amount of carbs per mass, so if you increase the non-carb mass (even water), the Glycemic Load goes down. Like I said, GL is just numerology.

6cdc6b1e75690cfcc4804a6c9eaa910a

(2171)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:06 PM

Sorry, are you saying that the likely impact on my insulin levels of eating a slice of toast is twice as much as if I eat a slice of toast and drink a glass of water with it? Surely GL is about the individual foodstuff and is additive for all the foods you eat, not interdependent...if it was, how could anyone measure the GL of an individual food: the answer would alwways be, dpends what you eat it with.

6cdc6b1e75690cfcc4804a6c9eaa910a

(2171)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:00 PM

...and please don't answer: try it and see what works for you. I will scream!

6cdc6b1e75690cfcc4804a6c9eaa910a

(2171)

on December 07, 2011
at 03:56 PM

Maybe I asked the wrong question, 1 mention of GL seems to set the hares running... This stuff comes down to small decisions. I can choose to have for breakfast, for example; . 3 eggs . 2 eggs and 1 piece of toast . 1 egg and 2 pieces of toast, or . 3 pieces of toast. I do have enough brain cells to work out that the 3 eggs is best all the way down to the 3 toast being worst for me. All I want to know is, can I throw in 1 piece of toast now and again and not cause my weight loss to stop?

6cdc6b1e75690cfcc4804a6c9eaa910a

(2171)

on December 07, 2011
at 03:53 PM

Sorry for being new on here and clearly under-informed on the subjects thrown around between all you experts for months... I feel like I need to restate my position: I want to lose weight. I understand and agree with the basics that carbs are the problem. But there are certain items and certain meals where I don't want to eat NO carb, but rather LOW carb. Sorry if that offends any purists. All I'm trying to do is understand this whole stuff. And in this case I'm just trying to get a feel, not an exact answer specific to me, but just a feel for what constitutes LOW carb and when it stops...

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:49 PM

I spent a long time looking at archival pictures of Atkins yesterday. He was lanky and lean up to the early 90's, but from then on he gets bulky and old-looking, and a lot like my heavy fat eating grandpa who had similar end-of-life CV problems but outlived Atkins by 6 years. When you're young low carb is good to you, and certainly helps weight loss at any age. But when you hit 60, eating a cube of butter a day, or a half cup of PUFA, then sitting around, is arguably worse than eating cornflakes and going for a walk.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:35 PM

When my A1C and blood sugar were unstable, just the potato would shoot my blood glucose over 200. Guyenet is healthier than I was.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:35 PM

This! You won't know your carb tolerance until you know your postprandial blood sugar. People forget there are more things than fat retention to take into account.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 07, 2011
at 01:26 PM

im not for "carbs are good" and i believe more calories should be diverted towards quality sources of animal products + vegs. however, i agree that insulin is actually the good guy and not everyone needs to be low-carb. esp athletes. however, to be fit, many would need a plain, simple diet (not hyperpalatable)

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9 Answers

7
Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 07, 2011
at 11:28 AM

I'm not sure it's helpful to think of it in those terms. The negative problems are associated with chronic and repeated abuse of the insulin system. When you're eating sensibly, any fast-digesting sugars will likely trigger a response but that's ok. Your blood sugar will have increased and you will probably have eaten some fat too, so you don't need your body to use it's own stores for a while. You'll burn off the food you eat, the insulin will shuffle things about to keep everything in balance, and when you're done eating you'll go back to burning what you've stored.

Personally, I don't think trying to micromanage any of my body's functions is particularly productive. I just create the environment to sustain a natural rhythm of excess as I eat and depletion between meals.

4
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 07, 2011
at 01:31 PM

Spotted this: It's Time to Let Go of The Glycemic Index.

Blood sugar responses to a carbohydrate-containing foods vary greatly from person to person. For example, I can eat a medium potato and a big slice of white bread (roughly 60 g carbohydrate) with nothing else and only see a modest spike in my blood sugar. I barely break 100 mg/dL and I'm back at fasting glucose levels within an hour and a half. You can see a graph of this experiment here. That's what happens when you have a well-functioning pancreas and insulin-sensitive tissues. Your body shunts glucose into the tissues almost as rapidly as it enters the bloodstream. Someone with impaired glucose tolerance might have gone up to 170 mg/dL for two and a half hours on the same meal. -- Stephan Guyenet

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:35 PM

When my A1C and blood sugar were unstable, just the potato would shoot my blood glucose over 200. Guyenet is healthier than I was.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:35 PM

This! You won't know your carb tolerance until you know your postprandial blood sugar. People forget there are more things than fat retention to take into account.

4
24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on December 07, 2011
at 12:59 PM

Ever wonder why Gary Taubes uses the word "excess calories" all the time when he's trying to convince you that carbs/insulin cause fat trapping and adipose tissue accumulation? I have, because it undermines his whole argument and tips you off about what's really going on in your body. As JRAC said above, it ultimately boils down to 24 hr energy use.

Look at it this way. What many would consider a relatively small low carb meal: 2 eggs fried in 1T butter with 2 slices of bacon comes out to roughly 30g fat (average sizes). That's 270 fat calories. Now ... let's say you are in energy balance at about 2400 cal/day ... that's 100 cal/hour. Even if you were to burn 100% fat for energy after that modest meal, where do you think the rest of the fat goes? Where do you want it to go? It goes into your fat cells, mostly, and comes out later in the day. This occurs whether you ingest carbs or not. If you replace just 2t. butter with a slice of toast, do you think you'll be accumulating more fat? The answer is no. Your body will simply burn that 60-70 cals of carb first before tapping the fat stores, but your body will also temporarily store roughly the same amount of fat after these two meals. Hope that makes sense.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 07, 2011
at 01:26 PM

im not for "carbs are good" and i believe more calories should be diverted towards quality sources of animal products + vegs. however, i agree that insulin is actually the good guy and not everyone needs to be low-carb. esp athletes. however, to be fit, many would need a plain, simple diet (not hyperpalatable)

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 07, 2011
at 08:38 PM

Based on ... your sample set of two?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:49 PM

I spent a long time looking at archival pictures of Atkins yesterday. He was lanky and lean up to the early 90's, but from then on he gets bulky and old-looking, and a lot like my heavy fat eating grandpa who had similar end-of-life CV problems but outlived Atkins by 6 years. When you're young low carb is good to you, and certainly helps weight loss at any age. But when you hit 60, eating a cube of butter a day, or a half cup of PUFA, then sitting around, is arguably worse than eating cornflakes and going for a walk.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 10:03 PM

Andy, if you're talking to me, I have no idea what you're talking about. AP had a pretty good archive of Atkins pictures dating to the late 60's - 5 or 6 total - but enough to get an idea. My grandpa is important to me because of my genetics, because my dad has outlived him by 8 years and counting on a better diet, and I have a raft of relatives on the other side who fit the same 50's to 80's diet and activity profile. I lack paleos to compare with so Atkins becomes a handy N=1 comparison point. Despite his great wealth I see the same CV problems and appearance as my SAD relatives.

4
D12142c8cafb16d9af10b3362cb8fb62

(1590)

on December 07, 2011
at 11:53 AM

When you eat carbohydrate the body switches to glucose metabolism; over a 24 hour period it doesn't matter; if you've ingested (i.e. absorbed) less energy than you've burnt from various processes then you're body will be at a lower fat mass. After a meal it's at a higher one.

That is the purpose of adipose tissue, to store energy between meals. Dietary fat stores quite nicely in it.

I'm not sure if GL is particually useful. What matters is having healthy blood glucose and despite what some will argue, normal spikes in glucose have no evidence as being pathogenic.

2
Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 01:00 PM

10 is about the glycemic load of a piece of peanut buttered toast. I lost 50 lbs eating that for breakfast 5 years ago. When I was obese and diabetic glycemic load (and index) mattered a lot, not so much for fat storage (though overeating high glycemics was to blame for my obesity, and I avoided them) as for blood glucose control. At normal weight I can gain or lose weight eating any food without worrying about glycemic load.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 07, 2011
at 07:36 PM

You didn't say whether or not you are testing your BP and BG after eating breakfast. Those are numbers that can help clarify the issue for you.

In a recent experiment I made from-scratch, very slow rise sourdough to see if enough gluten was destroyed to help me tolerate it.

My normal mid-day BP is high 120s-mid-130s over low 70s-80. A few hours after eating the bread my BP was 155/85. I was so startled that I forgot to test my BG, but I defnitely had mild swelling of my hands and feet.

You can also experiment by skipping the toast for a week to see what happens to your weight, then eat it for a week and see what happens.

Let your body decide.

1
Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

on December 07, 2011
at 07:02 PM

I will first point out that glycemic index/load is about blood sugar, not insulin. In fact, adding insulin (through, for example, protein) lowers the glycemic index of a meal.

You are wrong that insulin or carbs per se matter one bit for weight loss. Here's a quote from my namesake.

You need to understand that there are a multitude of enzymes that are involved in triacylglycerol synthesis and lipolysis. ???Insulin??? is not a pathway. It???s one of several hormones that have an effect on the enzymes that comprise the actual pathways. What enzymes am I talking about? For fatty acid uptake, there???s FAT/CD36, FATP-1 to -6, and FABPpm. For fatty acid synthesis, there???s fatty acid synthase. For glucose uptake, there???s Glut1 and Glut4. For esterfication, there???s GPAT, PAP1, and DGAT1 and DGAT2. For lipolysis, there???s HSL, perilipin, and Protein kinase A.

What ???regulates all this???? It???s definitely not just ???insulin???. That???s an incredibly simplistic, insulinocentric view. You know what else has an effect on these lipogenic/lipolytic enzymes besides insulin? There???s angiotensin II, the adrenergic receptor (catacholamines), FoxC2, PTP1B, and last but not least ASP.

ASP stimulates triacylglycerol synthesis more than any other known adipose tissue factor. It???s also a potent stimulator of glucose transport [PMID: 9130021]. It works independently of insulin, through a different signaling pathway. It effectively synthesizes triacylglycerol even in the absence of glucose and insulin [PMID: 8492712]. Finally, guess what the primary regulator of ASP production is? Dietary fat (packaged as chylomicrons) [PMID: 9694837]. Fat intake and ASP will lead to a positive fat balance just as much as carb intake and insulin will. Which is why it???s all about calories. Unfortunately, low carb nuts never look past insulin. They ignore (or are ignorant of) the fact that fat stores itself with tremendous efficiency without any insulin whatsoever.

Take a look at the broader picture. Fatty acids are taken up into adipocytes via facilitated diffusion, mediated by fatty acid transporters like the ones I mentioned above. You don???t need insulin for this. Dietary FFAs will diffuse into adipocytes down the concentration gradient. There may even be passive diffusion. You then need a triacylglycerol backbone and the acylation (esterfication) steps that lead to the production of a triacylglycerol. ASP can stimulate both. After all, it???s called ???acylation-stimulating protein.??? This process works just fine with basal levels of insulin or glucose. And as explained before, ASP is produced in response to FAT INTAKE.

Weight loss is all about negative calorie balance, not lowering of insulin. Research clearly shows that when isonitrogenous diets are compared, higher carb diets (with higher insulin levels) do JUST AS WELL as lower carb diets at reducing bodyfat. While low carb diets have lower insulin levels, they have higher ASP levels. And vice versa with a low fat diet. Why? Because carb intake (or type) and insulin levels are absolutely unable to account for fat loss. It???s all about energy balance.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on December 07, 2011
at 09:17 PM

I'm too lazy to dig it up but there's a study showing that bran cereal compared to white cereal has a lower GI due to the increased protein content stimulating increased insulin secretion. Change in blood glucose = rate in - rate out. Insulin increases rate out, fat decreases rate in.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 07, 2011
at 07:32 PM

The point I believe Mr Taubes would make is that it's a lot easier to control that energy balance with certain foods than others - not that fat-loss is the top priority in any case.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on December 07, 2011
at 09:16 PM

@Andy obviously I agree that certain foods are harder to overeat, but it has nothing to do with insulin, and Taubes is not saying that. @thhq adding moderate amounts of fat lowers glycemic index due to slowing of gastric emptying (giving the body a better chance to clear the glucose into tissue). Adding protein lowers through insulin. Having protein and fat in every meal, at least in moderate amounts, helps control blood sugar best.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 07, 2011
at 07:44 PM

Addition of 0 glycemic fat or protein to high glycemic foods acts like weight ratio blending. A candy bar or a Twinkie have lower glycemic index than sugar and starch because of the fat. I'm not sure this has much to do with insulin.

1
Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 07, 2011
at 01:24 PM

im breaking it down for ya: insulin is not the bad guy, refined carbs/sugars are. glycemic index is a load of bollocks, healthy food can be both high or low in GI (as well as unhealthy foods). GI is akin to the food pyramid, outdated and not very useful. if u wish to lose more fat, cut out processed junk (including sausage/bacon) and eat a plain, simple paleo plan. you'll eat only when hungry.

0
7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 07, 2011
at 02:18 PM

Glycemic Load has always seemed like numerology to me. You want to cut the glycemic load of bread in half? – just drink a glass of water with it. If somebody eats the same number of carbs, protein, and fat as another person, the only difference in glycemic load will be water and fiber. It seems like the amount of water someone consumes would tend to balance out over the day, so the only real difference would be fiber.

It all goes back to trying to figure out what exactly is so bad about sugar and flour. It is looking at food that has been dehydrated and stripped of fiber and deciding Glycemic Load (aka carb density) is the issue, and therefore whole-grains are the answer…

Or just maybe it is that this fiber-free, dehydrated food cooked with some fat and salt and special seasonings is easy to stuff in your gullet even after you are no longer hungry.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:34 PM

Drinking a glass of water does not likely significantly alter the insulin levels of eating a piece of toast, BUT it would cut the Glycemic Load in half. That is one of the other problems with artificial measures like Glycemic Load.

6cdc6b1e75690cfcc4804a6c9eaa910a

(2171)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:06 PM

Sorry, are you saying that the likely impact on my insulin levels of eating a slice of toast is twice as much as if I eat a slice of toast and drink a glass of water with it? Surely GL is about the individual foodstuff and is additive for all the foods you eat, not interdependent...if it was, how could anyone measure the GL of an individual food: the answer would alwways be, dpends what you eat it with.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:28 PM

"the answer would alwways be, dpends what you eat it with" - EXACTLY. You have to look at the whole meal. GI and GL is just a scoring system to rate one individual item against another individual item but tells little about the meal as a whole. Glyemic response can be altered by protein, fat, and fiber. Glycemic Load is just a number that weighs heavily on the amount of carbs per mass, so if you increase the non-carb mass (even water), the Glycemic Load goes down. Like I said, GL is just numerology.

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