|Glycemic Index, Inattentive ADHD and SCT|
A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition last month looked at how kids learned and retained information after eating different breakfast foods. What they discovered was that the kids that ate foods with a high glycemic load but a low glycemic index, learned better.
The difference between glycemic load and glycemic index is important because of the way these indices affect our insulin levels. Insulin levels are important because sugar is the primary energy source of our cells and too much or to little insulin affect the amount of sugar we have circulating in our bodies. This in turn affects our brain functioning as well as other hormone levels that play a role in our mental health. The correct amount of sugar is necessary for our brain cells and other bodily cells to work properly.
The whole glycemic load/glycemic index calculation is not important here. You can Google these terms if you want to know more about them. What is important is that the researchers of this study have proved what nutritionists have been saying for a very long time, “You are what you eat”. The study findings showed that high glycemic load meals caused kids to feel more confident and less sluggish or hungry and low glycemic index meals caused the kids to do better on tests of verbal memory and vigilance.
So, high glycemic load meals with low glycemic index numbers are what we need to be feeding ourselves and our children. What does a high GL/Low GI breakfast look like? I thought you might ask. The following foods are fairly high in glycemic load but fairly low on the glycemic index.
Steel cut Oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, melon, pineapple, apple, peanut butter, multigrain toast, multigrain pasta, and brown rice, Multigrain Cheerios with milk or Wheaties cereal with milk. An older study from Lund University in Sweden found that eating a low glycemic but filling “good carbohydrate” breakfast with these foods improved mental focus for 10 hours.
This new study also measured cortisol, a hormone that is increased when the body is stressed, and found that the high glycemic meals increased cortisol levels . Higher cortisol levels are never a good thing, especially for folks with ADHD, Sluggish Cognitive Tempo or Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI). You can read more about Inattentive ADD and cortisol in this other post.
I think that it would be a pretty good idea to think about glycemic index and glycemic load when preparing all of our meals. Also remember that as we enter the holiday season, we will be under lots of stress, both good and bad and it is especially important to remember that what we eat will affect our mental health and the mental health of our children.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2011 Nov;106(10):1552-61. Epub 2011 Jun 8.
Glycaemic index and glycaemic load of breakfast predict cognitive function and mood in school children: a randomized controlled trial.
Micha R, Rogers PJ, Nelson M.
Nutritional Sciences Research Division, King's College London, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH, UK.
The macronutrient composition of a breakfast that could facilitate performance after an overnight fast remains unclear. As glucose is the brain's major energy source, the interest is in investigating meals differing in their blood glucose-raising potential. Findings vary due to unaccounted differences in glucoregulation, arousal and cortisol secretion. We investigated the effects of meals differing in glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) on cognition and mood in school children. A total of seventy-four school children were matched and randomly allocated either to the high-GL or low-GL group. Within each GL group, children received high-GI and low-GI breakfasts. Cognitive function (CF) and mood were measured 95-140 min after breakfast. Blood glucose and salivary cortisol were measured at baseline, before and after the CF tests. Repeated-measures ANOVA were used to identify differences in CF, mood, glucose and cortisol levels between the breakfasts. Low-GI meals predicted feeling more alert and happy, and less nervous and thirsty (P < 0·05 for each); high-GL meals predicted feeling more confident, and less sluggish, hungry and thirsty (P < 0·05 for each). High-GL (P < 0·001) and high-GI (P = 0·05) meals increased glucose levels 90 min after breakfast, and high-GI meals increased cortisol levels (P < 0·01). When baseline mood, glucose and cortisol levels were considered, low-GI meals predicted better declarative-verbal memory (P = 0·03), and high-GI meals better vigilance (P < 0·03); observed GI effects were valid across GL groups. GI effects on cognition appear to be domain specific. On balance, it would appear that the low-GI high-GL breakfast may help to improve learning, and of potential value in informing government education policies relating to dietary recommendations and implementation concerning breakfast.