Professor Jennie Brand-Miller – or GI Jennie, as she is known – is internationally recognised for her groundbreaking work that developed a way to measure the body’s absorption of carbohydrates, now commonly known as the ‘glycemic index’.
Battling years of criticism and scepticism, she is now at the forefront of research that has the potential to help millions of people avoid chronic diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes.
Brand-Miller’s breakthrough discovery is that not all carbohydrate foods are created equal. In fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels.
Choosing low GI carbs – the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels – is the secret to long-term health, she says. They reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes and are the key to sustainable weight loss.
“GI foods push your body to extremes,” Brand-Miller says. “Switching to eating mainly low GI carbs that slowly trickle glucose into your blood stream keeps your energy levels balanced and means you will feel fuller for longer between meals,” she adds.
Brand-Miller’s current research includes investigating the diets of pregnant women, with the ultimate aim of reducing child obesity. “Our hypothesis is that a low GI diet during pregnancy will lower maternal glucose levels and be superior to a conventional low fat diet.”
Other projects include examining the potential of a food insulin index to improve glycemic control in adults with type 1 diabetes. Brand-Miller and colleagues are also investigating the gene involved in starch digestion (the AMY gene) to see if different versions affect the rate at which people digest starch.
Brand-Miller is currently Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Sydney. She was a finalist in the 2006 Australian of the Year Award, and her books have sold millions of copies around the world. She was also recently made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to education in the field of human nutrition as a researcher and academic, and as a supporter of people with a hearing impairment.