Jennie Brand-Miller: GI Jennie
The realm of carbohydrates is two-fold: there are slow carbs and then there are those that are so slow that they never even make it to the dinner table. Australian nutritionist Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller is at the forefront of the glycaemic index (GI) revolution. During our breakfast meeting, she models healthy restraint by not ordering croissants, baguettes, or sugar-coated cereals. Instead, she opts for fruit, sourdough bread, and porridge, which never materializes.
However, Brand-Miller doesn’t seem overly concerned. She believes that spreading the word is critical since food companies spend millions advertising their processed foods. Meanwhile, she doesn’t have the budget to compete. Consequently, her only option is to talk as loudly as possible to reach as wide an audience as she can and hope the message gets across.
The signs indicate that she is winning the battle since no magazine supplement is complete without a feature on the GI diet. Brand-Miller’s book, What Makes My Blood Glucose Levels Go Up and Down?, along with several other opportunist imitators, takes up acres of table space in bookshops.
While some might say that GI has all the characteristics of this year’s media hype, that’s not quite the truth. Hard science backs it up, dating back nearly 25 years, and Brand-Miller has been in on it since the beginning. The scientific basis for GI, a ranking system for determining the speed at which food is digested and transformed into glucose, was established by David Jenkins at the University of Toronto in 1981. He originally developed it as a tool for treating diabetics since too many high-GI foods can cause sugar levels to rise, causing the pancreas to respond by producing insulin. When Brand-Miller read the research, she instinctively knew he had opened a whole new branch of academic study.
Brand-Miller liked how GI upended traditional nutritional science, which claimed sugars were harmful and carbs were good. GI showed that some carbs, such as potatoes, break down into glucose far quicker than some sugars. What Brand-Miller found most appealing is that GI intuitively made sense. We all talk about needing a sugar high or low. This provided an explanation that opened the door to exploring how foods can impact not only our physical health but our moods as well.
As a junior researcher in the department of human nutrition at the University of Sydney, Brand-Miller received the Canadian research. She remains at Sydney but now boasts a grander title of professor, 25 years later. She loves the city, and her loyalty works both ways. The university backed her research into GI when it was controversial. All the big academic players from the US rubbished it. The university provided funding and facilities for her research, which allowed her to maintain professional credibility when her work was under attack.
She now leads a team of 12 dedicated research scientists at one of the university’s highest-profile departments. While GI’s testing of foods may have begun on an ad hoc basis with Brand-Miller scrounging around for odd amounts of funding, it is now a fully-fledged business. The university aims to establish a spin-off company to capitalize on the growing market.
While Jenkins focused primarily on diabetes, Brand-Miller expanded her research to include GI’s implications for sports and general health. She discovered that trained athletes could maintain their stamina for an additional 20 minutes if they ate slow carbs the night before. This has revolutionized the way athletes prepare for competition.
Nonetheless, it is in the region of public health that Brand-Miller hopes to make the most significant difference. The low-GI diet is founded on carbohydrates that slowly release energy, which reduces cravings and increases the sense of satiety. Furthermore, this stabilizes insulin production, and roughly half of all adults suffer from insulin resistance, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.
Jennie Brand-Miller, a leading nutritionist, advocates a simple message that has helped her be successful in her field ‘ continue eating what you love but with slight modifications like replacing jasmine rice with basmati rice. She herself follows this mantra and occasionally indulges in chocolate in moderation without any ill effects. Despite solid scientific evidence, it has been a struggle to get her findings accepted in the academic community. Resistance from academia has made her work harder to ensure her findings are scientifically correct. Born in Sydney, Jennie was raised by a single mother who taught her never to depend on a man. Her hearing disability made her education and career challenging, but she persevered and even declined a job change suggestion from a specialist. Her hard work paid off with Glycemic Index (GI) becoming an epitome of academic respectability and her books selling more than 3 million copies. Despite her success, she prioritizes the message over money and is happy for Sydney University to take the lion’s share of any profits to be made from GI. She believes that her job is her hobby and duty to inform, not to make a profit. Now, with the credibility and acceptance she always desired, she can contemplate a retired life. However, knowing her passion for work, Jennie is not sure if she wants to become ‘quite that vacant.’
At the age of 53, this individual has accomplished quite a lot. As a professor of human nutrition at Sydney University, they are an expert in their field. They also hold positions as the president of the Nutrition Society of Australia and the director of the food labelling program in Australia. With their vast knowledge of nutrition, they have authored or co-authored 14 books, including titles such as "What Makes My Blood Glucose Go Up and Down?," "The Low GI Guide to the Metabolic Syndrome and Your Heart," and "The Low GI Diet."
Outside of work, this individual enjoys indulging in chocolate, exercising, and staying in luxurious hotels. They also appreciate the opportunity to take romantic weekends with their partner. On the other hand, they strongly dislike smoking and the dogmatic tendencies of certain middle-aged male cardiologists.
In their personal life, this individual is married with two children. With their professional and personal achievements, it’s clear that they are a well-rounded and accomplished individual.