Glycemic Index and Hunger - What's the Connection

Short-term research indicates that consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates may increase hunger and promote overeating of lower GI products. (1,2,3)

When it comes to regulating body weight and appetite, consuming whole grains instead of highly refined grains is a reaffirmed dietary change consistent with current dietary guidelines.

However, like everything in the biology of the human body, nothing is black and white. As information accumulates on the relationship between the glycemic index and satiety, it is confirmed that this is not as direct as it was believed a few years ago.

Read on to understand the connection between the glycemic index and hunger if it is true that the GI can help you prevent overeating.


What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index or GI measures the effect of carbohydrate-containing foods on blood glucose values.

In practice, the GI is generally defined as the area under the glycemic response curve for one hour after consuming 50 g of carbohydrates from a test food.

The values ​​are expressed about the effect

of white bread or glucose. As a result, GI is considered a specific property of foods and refers to how quickly carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels.

Glycemic index, hunger, and satiety

Satiety is defined as the feeling of fullness during the progress of a meal and contributes to finish eating. At the same time, hunger is defined as the feeling of discomfort between one meal and the next.

Both factors switch between eating low and high glycemic index foods.

A systematic study states that consumption of high-GI foods tends to promote excessive post-meal calorie intake relative to consumption of low-GI foods. (1)

In another study on overweight adolescents, energy intake averaged 29% more after consuming high GI foods. (4)

From these results, the researchers conclude that the glycemic index of foods influences energy regulation. And therefore, it is most likely that changes in hunger and satiety would mediate the influence.

According to scientists, this is “because the ability of humans for adaptive changes in energy intake is much greater than the ability to change energy expenditure.”

The relationship between GI and the desire to eat is not so simple.

A popular narrative about the connection between hunger and the glycemic index is that high GI foods increase blood glucose, which stimulates growth in insulin levels, resulting in a rapid drop in blood glucose levels and an increase in appetite.

While this narrative is biologically possible, the science of whether this story is true is less solid than you might think. A study published in the scientific journal Appetite seriously challenges this narrative.

The study was specifically designed to test the hypothesis that glycemic fluctuations – via intravenous glucose infusion – are associated with changes in hunger, appetite, and satiety.

In their experiment, despite this wide glycemic fluctuation, the subjective sensations of hunger, appetite, satiety, and fullness did not differ from the control condition throughout the investigation.

These findings speak against the notion that blood glucose and insulin level fluctuations represent essential signals in the short-term regulation of hunger and satiety.

The test was not tested with foods with different GI values, which would be the closest to what happens when we eat. But it leaves the door open that the relationship between the glycemic index and hunger is not that simple. The global explanation could be due to food volume, fiber content, and GI levels on other hormonal responses.


The connection between the glycemic index of foods and hunger is controversial. Most studies support the idea that foods with a high glycemic index cause an increase in the desire to eat.

However, the long-term relationship is not 100% clear, so in addition to consuming your healthy carbohydrate foods, eat a healthy mixed diet with lots of high-volume, high-protein, fibrous foods to achieve your goals.

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