Positioning the Value of Dietary Carbohydrate, Carbohydrate Quality, Glycemic Index, and GI Labelling to the Canadian Consumer for Improving Dietary Patterns.

Nutrients. 2019;11(2)

Plain language summary

Nutrition science dictates that carbohydrates are elements of a healthy diet. However, consumers have increasingly antagonistic feelings toward dietary carbohydrate as a cause of weight gain. The aim of this study was to understand Canadian consumers’ knowledge and perception of dietary carbohydrates, carbohydrate quality, and the glycaemic index. A secondary aim was to identify a strategy for positioning the glycaemic index as a consumer-facing labelling program. The study conducted focus groups with forty-seven individuals. The participants were recruited into three consumer segments (normal body weight, previously obese and overweight/obese). Results demonstrate that the focus groups interpreted ‘carbohydrate quality’ as the categorization of carbohydrate foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Additionally, Canadians were receptive to a labelling program that identifies carbohydrate food as having low glycaemic index. However, since low glycaemic index was perceived as a tool for diabetes management, low glycaemic labelling requires significant consumer education and adoption by industry. Authors conclude that glycaemic index could be used as a consumer-facing labelling program for Canadians and assist with de-stigmatizing carbohydrate foods.


The objectives of this qualitative study was to: (1) understand Canadian consumers' knowledge and perception of dietary carbohydrates, carbohydrate quality, and the glycemic index (GI); and (2) determine Canadian's receptiveness to GI labelling to assist with identifying and consuming foods of higher carbohydrate quality. Focus groups were recruited in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal and grouped according to body mass index (BMI) (NBW, normal body weight; PO, previously obese; and OW/OB, overweight/obese) and diagnosis with prediabetes and diabetes (PO (Vancouver) and OW/OB (Montreal and Toronto). Subjects in all groups linked excess consumption of carbohydrate with weight gain. PO and OW/OB groups were conflicted between perceived negative consequences and feelings of pleasure associated with carbohydrate consumption. Subjects were largely unfamiliar with the term 'carbohydrate quality', but were often associated with classifying carbohydrates as 'good' or 'bad'. The concept of the GI resonated well across groups after exposure to corresponding educational materials. However, NBW groups largely felt that the GI was irrelevant to their dietary choices as they did not have a history of diabetes. PO and OW/OB groups associated the GI with diabetes management. The concept of a GI labelling program to help facilitate healthier carbohydrate choices was well received across all groups, especially when the low GI was interpreted as giving permission to consume foods they enjoyed eating. Results suggest that the GI could be used as a consumer-facing labelling program in Canada and assist with de-stigmatizing carbohydrate foods by helping to facilitate the consumption of carbohydrate foods that align with healthy dietary patterns.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Hormonal
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Glycaemic index
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article