NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children may eat fewer calories throughout the day if their first meal of the day is “low-GI,” new research suggests.
GI, or glycemic index, refers to the effects a particular carbohydrate-rich food has on blood sugar levels. High-GI foods, like white bread and potatoes, tend to spur a quick surge in blood sugar, while low-GI foods, such as lentils, soybeans, yogurt and many high-fiber grains, create a more gradual increase in blood sugar.
Some studies have suggested that diets heavy in high-GI foods can contribute to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Other studies, though not all, have found that limiting such foods may aid weight control.
The new study, reported in the British Journal of Nutrition, included 38 British children between the ages of 8 and 11 who were given high-GI and low-GI breakfasts on different days of the week.
Researchers found that on days when the children ate a low-GI breakfast, they consumed an average of 60 fewer calories over the rest of the day. The theory is that the children felt fuller, for a longer period, after a low-GI breakfast.
The difference in daily calorie intake may seem modest, but over time it could matter in a child’s risk of becoming overweight, according to the study authors.
“As you do not become obese or overweight overnight...the modest reduction in calorie intake reported in our work is exactly what you need,” explained lead study author Jeya Henry, a professor of food science and human nutrition at Oxford Brookes University in the UK.
A low-GI breakfast, he told Reuters Health, could offer parents a “simple and practical” way to reduce their children’s long-term calorie intake.
Low-GI breakfasts in this study included choices like cooked oatmeal, all-bran cereal, and soy or linseed breads with low-sugar jams. High-GI fare included shredded wheat cereals and wheat bread.
Henry said that some other low-GI choices might include oat bran cereal, whole-grain pumpernickel bread, and fruits such as apples, mango and plums.
In general, high-fiber, whole foods have a lower GI than more-processed carbohydrates like white bread.
It’s not known yet whether low-GI eating does in fact lower children’s risk of becoming overweight. However, Henry said, there is also no harm in giving children low-GI breakfast foods over more sugary, processed options.
SOURCE: British Journal of Nutrition, September 2007.