In the last 3 decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the
number of people with diabetes worldwide.1 In
Southeast Asia, it has been estimated that one out of every
12 adults already has the disease or will develop it in
Compared to people from Western countries, Asians are known
to develop diabetes at a younger age, and at lower body
weights.3 Over-nutrition and eating patterns
characterized by consumption of high-energy foods, have been
identified as key contributors to the risk of developing
Blood sugar is tightly controlled in the body – released when
the body needs energy, and stored when the body is resting,
or when there is an excess of sugar. In people with
diabetes, this control mechanism is faulty, resulting in
high levels of blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar
causes irreparable damage to the body, particularly to the
eyes and kidneys.4
People with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as
anyone else. However, with a deranged glucose control
system, it is important for patients with diabetes to pay
particular attention to the type and amount of carbohydrate
intake as this can affect blood sugar levels faster than
protein or fat does.
The measure of glucose absorption into the bloodstream after
intake of food is called the glycemic index
(GI).5 Carbohydrate-containing foods with a low
GI are absorbed slower, resulting in greater control of
blood sugar level.5 Patients with diabetes may
thus benefit from preferential intake of food with low
Equally important as the GI, is the glycemic load, which is a
measure of the food’s available carbohydrate content.
Whereas GI provides a measure of carbohydrate quality,
glycemic load takes into account the amount of carbohydrates
and its effect on blood sugar levels.7 Simply
put, both the amount of carbohydrate as well as the type of
carbohydrate in a food influence blood glucose level.
Choosing foods or nutritional supplements with low glycaemic
index and low glycaemic load will go a long way towards
better control of diabetes.
1. Nanditha A, Ma RC,
Ramachandran A, et al. Diabetes Care. 2016;39:472-485.
2. International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes in south east
Accessed 3 March, 2016.
3. Ramachandran A, Snehalatha C, Shetty AS, Nanditha A.
World J Diabetes. 2012;3:110-117.
4. Forbes JM, Cooper ME. Physiol Rev. 2013;93:137-188.
5. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Augustin LS, et al. Am J Clin
6. Greenwood DC, Threapleton DE, Evans CE, et al. Diabetes
7. Sheard NF, Clark NG, Brand-Miller JC, et al. Diabetes