British Journal of Nutrition

Review article

Meta-analysis of the health effects of using the glycaemic index in meal-planning

A. Maretha Oppermana1 c1, Christina S. Ventera1, Welma Oosthuizena1, Rachel L. Thompsona2 and Hester H. Vorstera1

a1 School for Physiology, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

a2 Public Health Nutrition, Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, UK


Diabetes mellitus and CVD are some of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity. Accumulating data indicate that a diet characterised by low-glycaemic index (GI) foods may improve the management of diabetes or lipid profiles. The objective of the present meta-analysis was to critically analyse the scientific evidence that low-GI diets have beneficial effects on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism compared with high-GI diets. We searched for randomised controlled trials with a crossover or parallel design published in English between 1981 and 2003, investigating the effect of low-GI v. high-GI diets on markers for carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Unstandardised differences in mean values were examined using the random effects model. The main outcomes were fructosamine, glycated Hb (HbA1c), HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol and triacylglycerol. Literature searches identified sixteen studies that met the strict inclusion criteria. Low-GI diets significantly reduced fructosamine by –0·1 (95 % CI –0·20, 0·00) mmol/l (P=0·05), HbA1c by 0·27 (95 % CI –0·5, –0·03) % (P=0·03), total cholesterol by –0·33 (95 % CI –0·47, –0·18) mmol/l (P>0·0001) and tended to reduce LDL-cholesterol in type 2 diabetic subjects by –0·15 (95 % CI –0·31, –0·00) mmol/l (P=0·06) compared with high-GI diets. No changes were observed in HDL-cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. No substantial heterogeneity was detected, suggesting that the effects of low-GI diets in these studies were uniform. Results of the present meta-analysis support the use of the GI as a scientifically based tool to enable selection of carbohydrate-containing foods to reduce total cholesterol and to improve overall metabolic control of diabetes.

(Received December 02 2003)

(Revised April 08 2004)

(Accepted April 20 2004)


c1 *Corresponding author: fax + 27 18 299 2464, Email