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On the Glycemic Index, What the Company Can Do

Glycemic index, what is it? Well, it is simply the ranking of foods that contain carbohydrates and their effect on the blood sugar level compared with a standard reference food. What has this got to do with the work place? I can tell you right now that the leaders in the work site's goal is blood glucose control. And this topic plays a role in it.

The company can achieve its goal of blood glucose control in its program of diabetes intervention with proper consideration of the glycemic index. We know that carbohydrates are ultimately changed into simple sugars. Of course the rate of change varies for different foods. Some foods after digestion lead rapidly to high level of blood glucose while other foods release sugar into the blood more slowly.

glycemic index


So you see, the glycemic index plays a part in the company's diabetes intervention. Why? Because it contributes to the ultimate goal of blood sugar control. This improves the workers' quality of life and lowers the company's human and economic costs.

Testa et al conducted a study in 1998 of 569 employees who had type 2 diabetes to specifically find out the result of the blood sugar control and the company's intervention effort. Here's the result of this study:

  • Those who improved their blood sugar control were more productive and remained longer on the job than their counterpart.
  • Compared to those with uncontrolled blood glucose level, those with good glycemic control reduced their absenteeism by 1% compared to the former's 8% increase.
  • Those with good blood sugar control had less number of days of limited activity and bed rest than those with poor blood sugar control.

Gilmer et al conducted a study in 1997 on the medical cost of diabetic patients. It is not surprising that the researchers found the subjects with higher A1c values cost more to treat. This just showed the relationship between the blood glucose levels and the medical cost. Here's the table that summarized the result:

Diabetes Treatment Cost Control Chart
Levels of A1c (%) Being Compared Greater Per-Person Treatment Cost Associated with a 1 Percentage Point Higher A1c Value
10% with 9% $1200 - $4100
9% with 8% $ 900 - $3100
8% with 7% $ 600 - $2200
7% with 6% $ 400 - $1500

Note that less than 7% is the recommended A1c value.



Some are of the opinion though that with the difficulty of changing the lifestyle to prevent diabetes complications, glycemic index may just interrupt the whole process. All one has to do to achieve a low glycemic index diet is to increase the fiber content of each meal.

If the work place is large enough with a cafeteria then it follows that it should serve food that is healthy for its employees. If the work place does not have a cafeteria, it can still do its share by putting up posters on the bulletin board reminding the workers about the benefits of a healthy diet.

The work place therefore should take note then that potentially some of their employees could have diabetes now or may develop diabetes. Before the medical and human costs skyrocket, it is better to do something and have some form of intervention in place.


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