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Women Who Eat Foods With
High Glycemic Index Are at Greater Risk
For Heart Disease

Consuming carbohydrates with high glycemic index, an indicator
of how quickly a food affects blood glucose levels, appears to be
associated with the risk of coronary heart disease in women but
not men, according to a report in the April 2010 issue of Archives
of Internal Medicine: JAMA/Archives journals.

High-carbohydrate diets increase the levels of blood glucose and of
harmful blood fats known as triglycerides while reducing levels of protective
HDL or “good” cholesterol, thereby increasing heart disease risk, according
to background information in the article. However, not all carbohydrates have
the same effect on blood glucose levels. The glycemic index is a measure
of how much a food raises blood glucose levels compared with the same
amount of glucose or white bread. A related measure, the glycemic load,
s calculated based on the glycemic index of a particular food and also on
the total amount of carbohydrates it contains.

Recently, a research team from Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei
Tumori, Milan, Italy, studied 47,749 Italian adults (15,171 men and 32,578
women)  who completed dietary questionnaires. Based on their responses,
the researchers calculated their overall carbohydrate intakes as well as the
average glycemic index of the foods they consumed and the glycemic loads
of their diets. During a median (midpoint) of 7.9 years of follow-up, 463
participants (158 women and 305 men) developed coronary heart disease.

The one-fourth of women who consumed the most carbohydrates overall had
approximately twice the risk of heart disease as the one-fourth who consumed
the least.

 When these carbohydrates were separated into high- and low-glycemic index
categories, increased intake from high-glycemic index foods was significantly
associated with greater risk of coronary heart disease, whereas low-glycemic
index carbohydrates were not. “Thus, a high consumption of carbohydrates
from high-glycemic index foods, rather than the overall quantity of carbohydrates
consumed, appears to influence the risk of developing coronary heart disease”
the authors report.
The one-fourth of women whose diet had the highest glycemic load had more
than twice the risk of heart disease compared with the one-fourth of women with
the lowest glycemic load. Overall carbohydrate intake, glycemic index and glycemic
load were not associated with heart disease risk in men. This could be because the
adverse changes associated with carbohydrate intake, including triglyceride levels,
are stronger risk factors for heart disease in women than in men, the authors note.

“We tentatively suggest that the adverse effects of a high glycemic diet in women
are mediated by sex-related differences in lipoprotein and glucose metabolism,
but further prospective studies are required to verify a lack of association of a high
dietary glycemic load with cardiovascular disease in men,” they conclude.

JAMA and Archives Journals.
“Dietary Glycemic Load and Index and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in a
Large Italian Cohort: The EPICOR Study.” Arch Intern Med, 2010;