The influence of glycemic index on cognitive functioning: A systematic review of the evidence

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The impact of the rate of carbohydrate absorption, as measured by the carbohydrate's glycemic index (GI) on cognitive performance, is not clear. The aim of this review was to systematically assess the relevant research studies. A systematic review of English-language articles using Medline, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and PsycARTICLES (up to July 2012) using the search terms "glyc(a)emic index" or "glycaemic load" combined with "cognitive function" or "cognition" or "memory" was carried out. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were prespecified. Eligibility of the identified studies was assessed independently by the 2 reviewers. Independent extraction of data was carried out by the 2 authors using predefined data fields. The primary outcome measure was the effect on cognitive function (CF) after the consumption of meals varying in GI. Eleven eligible studies were identified. The age range of the participants varied from 6 to 82 y old. Overall, the findings were inconsistent, with some studies showing benefits toward either the high-GI or the low-GI meal, others not finding any differences between the 2 meals, and other studies showing a positive or negative effect on performance on only some cognitive domain or domains after consumption of 1 of the 2 meals. A number of methodologic and confounding factors were identified that could explain these inconsistencies. These include the study design, the selected sample (size, age, blood glucose regulation), the timing of testing, the cognitive domain being examined, the number and type of cognitive tests used, the meals provided (composition, size), the timing of blood samples collected, as well as the possibility of bias because participants and investigators were not blinded to randomization. A low-GI meal may favor CF in adults, but the findings at present are inconclusive. On the basis of this review, it is suggested that future studies address the identified methodologic issues and some recommendations are proposed to this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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