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Carbohydrates, glycemic index and diabetes mellitus

Effects of human milk and formula on postprandial glycaemia and insulinaemia



Consumption of formula in place of human milk may produce differences in postprandial glycaemia and insulinaemia that contribute to metabolic programming in the first year of life. The objective of the current study was to determine glycaemic and insulinaemic responses to human milk compared with a typical commercial formula, and then compare 11 other formulas.


On separate mornings in random order, 10 healthy breastfeeding mothers consumed 25 g available carbohydrate portions of their own milk, a formula and reference food (25 g glucose on two occasions). In the second study, 10 different healthy subjects consumed 25 g available carbohydrate portions of 11 different commercial formulas and three reference foods (25 g glucose on three occasions). Fingerpick blood samples were taken at regular intervals over 2 h, and the glycaemic index (GI) and insulin index determined according to a standardised protocol.


There were no significant differences in postprandial glycaemia or insulinaemia after human milk vs a typical formula (P=0.3). Both produced a low GI (mean±s.e.m.: 38±7 vs 34±7, respectively) and high insulin index (87±14 vs 94±16). The GI and insulin indices of the other formulas ranged from 18±3 to 67±6 and 53±9 to 209±33, respectively.


Human milk and a typical formula elicit similar postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses, but there is a wide range of responses to other formulas.

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This study was supported by The University of Sydney and internally funded.

Author Contributions

CJW was responsible for the preparation of foods, collection, analysis and interpretation of data and writing of the manuscript. FSA was responsible for analysis of the data and writing of the manuscript. NR prepared the food and collected the data. AEB conceived the study and wrote the manuscript. JCB-M conceived the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to J C Brand-Miller.

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Competing interests

JCB-M is a co-author of The Low GI Diet Revolution (Marlowe and Co., New York, NY, USA, 2005) and co-author of The New Glucose Revolution book series (Hodder and Stoughton, London, UK; Marlowe and Co., New York, NY, USA; Hodder Headline, Sydney, Australia; and elsewhere) and the director of a not-for-profit GI-based food endorsement programme in Australia. FSA manages the University of Sydney GI testing service, is a co-author of the New Glucose Revolution book series (Hodder and Stoughton, London, UK; Marlowe and Co., New York, NY, USA; Hodder Headline, Sydney, Australia; and elsewhere) and the director of a not-for-profit GI-based food endorsement programme in Australia. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Wright, C., Atkinson, F., Ramalingam, N. et al. Effects of human milk and formula on postprandial glycaemia and insulinaemia. Eur J Clin Nutr 69, 939–943 (2015).

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