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Glycaemic index database for local food being developed

In partnership with the Health Promotion Board, researchers have tested about 200 local delicacies in an attempt to find out which foods contain good quality carbohydrates, otherwise known as low glycaemic index (GI) foods.

SINGAPORE: Efforts are underway to develop a local database that can help identify foods with good carbohydrates, otherwise known as low glycaemic index (GI) foods. A low GI meal is especially beneficial for those with weight problems or suffering from diabetes.

Glycaemic index is a measurement carried out on foods that contain carbohydrates and their impact on a person's blood sugar level. Nutritionists say low GI foods help you feel full longer and control your appetite.

Not many may know of GI measurement, but a facility at Temasek Polytechnic, the first accredited GI testing facility in Asia, hopes to change that. In partnership with the Health Promotion Board (HPB), researchers have tested about 200 local delicacies in an attempt to find out which foods contain good quality carbohydrates.

The slower your body absorbs the carbs, the better it is.

"Asian food - Singapore is very unique for its chicken rice, nasi lemak - have never been tested,” said Kalpana Bhaskaran, unit head of the Glycaemic Index Research Unit at Temasek Polytechnic. “In the case of low GI food, the index is 0 to 55. So anything with a number of 55 and below, it is low glycaemic index. So when the public is educated, they know the number, they know that it is slow release. But let's say we are not able to remember the number, even if it says slow release, that's low glycaemic index."

The team took about three years to complete its tests. It is a tedious process, requiring drawing blood from a volunteer. The volunteer then eats and blood is again drawn every 15 minutes or so, for the next two to three hours. The blood samples are then tested, to find out the effect of the food the volunteer ate, on the blood sugar level.

The test facility has been a boon for small and medium local enterprises looking to develop their own low GI food products. "If I want to test the low GI and the lab is abroad, I have to send my samples over and that would take about a month's time to come back to me and tell me the result. If not, I have to do another batch and send again so it will take to and fro, time spent," said Sun Yuen Peng, director of Hi En LLP.

Having an accredited facility in Singapore also helps local companies save half the costs of testing food products for its glycaemic index overseas. 

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