The glycemic load (GL) of food is a number that estimates how much the food will raise a person's blood glucose level after eating it. One unit of glycemic load approximates the effect of consuming one gram of glucose. Glycemic load accounts for how much carbohydrate is in the food and how much each gram of carbohydrate in the food raises blood glucose levels. Glycemic load is based on the glycemic index (GI), and is calculated by multiplying the grams of available carbohydrate in the food times the food's GI and then dividing by 100.

Glycemic load estimates the impact of carbohydrate consumption using the glycemic index while taking into account the amount of carbohydrate that is consumed. GL is a GI-weighted measure of carbohydrate content. For instance, watermelon has a high GI, but a typical serving of watermelon does not contain much carbohydrate, so the glycemic load of eating it is low. Whereas glycemic index is defined for each type of food, glycemic load can be calculated for any size serving of a food, an entire meal, or an entire day's meals.

Glycemic load of a serving of food can be calculated as its carbohydrate content measured in grams (g), multiplied by the food's GI, and divided by 100. For example, watermelon has a GI of 72. A 100 g serving of watermelon has 5 g of available carbohydrates (it contains a lot of water), making the calculation 5 × 72/100=3.6, so the GL is 3.6. A food with a GI of 100 and 10 g of available carbohydrates has a GL of 10 (10 × 100/100=10), while a food with 100 g of carbohydrate and a GI of just 10 also has a GL of 10 (100 × 10/100=10).

For one serving of a food, a GL greater than 20 is considered high, a GL of 11–19 is considered medium, and a GL of 10 or less is considered low. Foods that have a low GL in a typical serving size almost always have a low GI. Foods with an intermediate or high GL in a typical serving size range from a very low to very high GI.

One 2007 study has questioned the value of using glycemic load as a basis for weight-loss programmes. Das et al. conducted a study on 36 healthy, overweight adults, using a randomised test to measure the efficacy of two diets, one with a high glycemic load and one with a low GL. The study concluded that there is no statistically significant difference between the outcome of the two diets.

Glycemic load appears to be a significant factor in dietary programs targeting metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and weight loss; studies have shown that sustained spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels may lead to increased diabetes risk. The Shanghai Women's Health Study concluded that women whose diets had the highest glycemic index were 21 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women whose diets had the lowest glycemic index. Similar findings were reported in the Black Women's Health Study. A diet program that manages the glycemic load aims to avoid sustained blood-sugar spikes and can help avoid onset of type 2 diabetes. For diabetics, glycemic load is a highly recommended tool for managing blood sugar.

Food Glycemic index Carbohydrate
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(% by weight)