Women double their risk of developing coronary heart disease if they have high consumption of carbohydrates, according to research recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Men’s hearts, however, didn’t seem to be affected by carb consumption. I mention this crucial difference because I see a growing trend to believe that “replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates is a major cause of heart disease.” If true, it seems to apply only to women.
We’ve known for a while that high-glycemic-index eating was linked to heart disease in women but not men. Glycemic index is a measure of how much effect a carbohydrate-containing food has on blood glucose levels. High-glycemic-index foods raise blood sugar higher and for longer duration in the bloodstream.
High-glycemic-index foods include potatoes, white bread, and pasta, for example.
The study at hand includes over 47,000 Italians who were interrogated via questionnaire as to their food intake, then onset of coronary heart disease—the cause of heart attacks—was measured over the next eight years.
Among the 32,500 women, 158 new cases of coronary heart disease were found.
Researchers doing this sort of study typically compare the people eating the least carbs with those eating the most. The highest quartile of carb consumers and glycemic load had twice the rate of heart disease compared to the lowest quartile.
The Cleave-Yudkin theory of the mid-20th century proposed that excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates cause heart disease and certain other chronic systemic diseases. Gary Taubes has also written extensively about this. Theresearch results at hand support that theory in women, but not in men.
Do these research results apply to non-Italian women and men? Probably to some, but not all. More research is needed.
Women with a family history coronary heart disease—or other CHD risk factors—might be well-advised to put a limit on total carbs, high-glycemic-index foods, and glycemic load. I’d stay out of that “highest quartile.” Don’t forget: heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
See NutritionData’s Glycemic Index page for information you can apply today.
Steve Parker, M.D.
Disclaimer: All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status. Always consult your personal physician before making any dietary or exercise changes.
References: Sieri, S., Krogh, V., Berrino, F., Evangelista, A., Agnoli, C., Brighenti, F., Pellegrini, N., Palli, D., Masala, G., Sacerdote, C., Veglia, F., Tumino, R., Frasca, G., Grioni, S., Pala, V., Mattiello, A., Chiodini, P., & Panico, S. (2010). Dietary Glycemic Load and Index and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in a Large Italian Cohort: The EPICOR Study Archives of Internal Medicine, 170 (7), 640-647 DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.15
Barclay, Alan, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk – a meta-analysis of observational studies [of mostly women]. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (2008): 627-637.