Scientists Call for Standardized Carbohydrates Quality Measure

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Carbohydrates have been giving a bad rap despite being the largest source of energy intake for much of the world’s population, which has scientists calling for better guidance on carbohydrate intake, a recent paper says.

Without a standard definition of carbohydrate quality, some foods which contain carbohydrates are often stigmatized, a news release on the study says.

“Terms like ‘good carbs’ and ‘bad carbs’ have been inconsistently assigned to a plethora of foods based on overly simplistic and narrowly focused measures, like glycemic index or fibre content,” Rebekah Schulz with University of Minnesota and coauthor of the paper, says in the release. “While these aspects can be individual pieces of the puzzle, they don’t reflect the full picture of carbohydrate quality.”

The paper covers the strengths and weaknesses of current methods used to assess carbohydrate quality. It also proposes additional indices to include in a standardized quality carbohydrate definition and defines research questions for further exploration.

The authors concluded that, “for truly relevant and applicable dietary guidance, the framework should focus on nutrient contributions and take into account various ways to measure and analyze nutrients, as well as be nimble to adjust for new research findings and data.”

The authors note current approaches to assessing carbohydrate quality may lead to even greater consumer confusion of nutritional recommendations for specific foods, including fruits and vegetables.

“Potatoes are one example of a food that tends to be misclassified or misunderstood based significantly on their GI value — even though preparation techniques and common consumption methods are not reflected accurately within a GI value,” Joanne Slavin with University of Minnesota and coauthor of the paper, says in the release.

Overall, there is a general shift away from one-directional and overly simplified dietary guidance, as any food or nutrient can have a place as part of a healthy lifestyle, the release notes. The authors call for a standardized carbohydrate quality metric, such as an algorithm which encompasses a broader spectrum of factors.

The paper was published in Advances in Nutrition.

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