Glycemic Index of Local Foods and Diets: The Mediterranean Experience

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Abstract

The Mediterranean diet is a healthful eating pattern associated with the prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD). Its main features are moderate intake of total fat (predominantly monounsaturated fat), low consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods, and high intake of starch. Although this type of diet has beneficial effects on lipid metabolism, its high carbohydrate content might not be ideal for patients with diabetes or other conditions associated with insulin resistance (e.g., metabolic syndrome), who are known to be at particular risk of CHD. We therefore evaluated the glycemic response to starchy foods based on wheat (typical of the Italian diet) in patients with type 2 diabetes and identified certain characteristics of foods explaining their effects on postprandial glucose response. We found that spaghetti and potato dumplings, because of their low blood glucose response, represent a valid alternative to other starchy foods typical of the Mediterranean diet. Food structure plays an important role in determining the accessibility of starch to digestion, thus influencing the postprandial blood glucose response, which modulates plasma insulin and lipid levels.

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