Low GI desserts may help obese children

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th June 2011

Overweight girls lose more weight and can better stay on a healthy diet if they eat sugar-free, low-fat desserts several times weekly, as opposed to their choice of dessert once a week, according to a new study by the Athens University School of Medicine.

“Dieters commonly splurge on dessert once a week, usually choosing fattening items,” said lead investigator Antonia Dastamani, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and research fellow at Athens University School of Medicine. “However, we found a positive effect of more frequent consumption of desserts that have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load.”

Glycemic index (or GI) represents how fast a food raises blood sugar levels, and low GI means sugar is released slowly. Glycemic load, or GL, is the total amount of glucose provided by the food.

Dastamani and her colleagues investigated certain low-calorie, low-GI/GL desserts containing sugar substitutes such as sucralose. The products are made by the Giotis Company, a food production company in Athens, which donated the desserts and helped fund the study.

The investigators studied 29 girls aged 10 to 14, with a BMI in the 85th percentile or above – considered overweight or obese. The girls ate the same basic diet – 45% carbohydrates, 35% fats and 20% proteins – but half ate a low GI/GL dessert four times a week, and half ate a dessert of their choice once a week.

A group of 15 girls ate a diet consisting of 45% carbohydrates, 35% fats and 20% proteins, including the low-GI/GL desserts four times a week. The other group of 14 girls followed the same diet except, instead of the low-GI/GL desserts, they ate desserts of their choice once a week.

After three months on the diet, both groups improved their BMI (body composition). Compared with the second group, however, the group that ate the low-GI/GL desserts lost significantly more weight and had better average BMI and systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading), the authors reported.

Girls who ate the low-GI/GL desserts also had significantly improved levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, the researchers found. They also had better improvements in biochemical markers of insulin resistance (fasting insulin levels in the blood and the homeostatic model assessment, or HOMA, index).

“Childhood obesity is pandemic, and dietary changes among overweight and obese children must be a priority,” Dastamani said. “Desserts with a low glycemic index and glycemic load, when eaten in moderation, are valuable tools in the treatment of pediatric obesity.”

The results are being presented at The Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.