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Potato Expo session dispels validity of glycemic index

By
John Groh

Potatoes are often maligned on the nutritional front, with dietitians and nutritionists citing their high score on the glycemic index as a reason to limit consumption.

Katie Lilley of Hillenby, a communications consultancy working on behalf of Potatoes USA, sought to dispel that view during a session held at the recent Potato Expo in Austin, TX.

Hillenby first defined the glycemic index as a measure of how quickly a food causes a spike in a person’s blood-sugar level. The higher the number, the more quickly a food is digested, causing a rise in the level.

“The GI is not a measure of nutrition but it is often used that way, which causes confusion,” said Lilley. “Registered dietitians often preach the message that potatoes are high on the glycemic index, and people tend to trust RDs very much. These RDs are not only working with clients but also serving as freelance content creators for news outlets. In many cases, these ‘trusted’ spokespeople are spreading the wrong message.”

Lilley said the change to blood-sugar levels varies by the individual, even if the same meal is consumed, due to genetics or meal context (i.e., did the person exercise? When was their last meal?).

Lilley cited a study done by The Lancet, a weekly, peer-reviewed medical journal, that found little evidence to support the glycemic index as an effective measure for evaluating the quality of carbohydrates as they pertain to health.

Instead, she said there are more important factors to consider, such as portion sizes and overall nutritional content of a meal.

“Does the meal pair carbs with protein and good fats? Is there fiber in the meal that will slow the sugar uptake?” she queried.

Lilley said it is better to emphasize whole foods and increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and also reduce added sugar that is often found in processed foods.

To help support including potatoes as part of a healthy diet, Lilley said Potatoes USA is working on an infographic that will simplify messaging and dispel the importance of the glycemic index. Additionally, it will send dedicated emails to the 3,000-plus registered dietitians on its list.

Lilley said Potatoes USA also will increase its media engagement efforts, such as by offering direct pushback to published inaccuracies and pitching pro-potato stories to registered dietitians and freelancers.

“We just want to make it clear that the glycemic index is not a helpful measure for people who are trying to eat better,” she said.

Photo:  Katie Lilley, chief operating officer at Hillenby, a communications consultancy that works with Potatoes USA, spoke at the recent Potato Expo in Austin, TX, about the flaws of using the glycemic index as a measure of healthy eating.

John Groh

John Groh

About John Groh  |  email

John Groh graduated from the University of San Diego in 1989 with a bachelors of arts degree in English. Following a brief stint as a sportswriter covering the New York Giants football team, he joined The Produce News in 1995 as an assistant editor and worked his way up the ranks, becoming publisher in 2006. He and his wife, Mary Anne, live in northern New Jersey in the suburbs of New York City.

 

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