High GI-index foods and heart disease – is there a link?

High GI-index carbohydrates may trigger heart problems! No real surprise when you consider the effects these foods have on the type-II diabetes risk factors. Our diets are full of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta and our intakes of sugar is ever increasing. It’s long been known that diabetes and heart disease go hand in hand but the idea that high GI foods could be an independent risk factor has come as a shock to many.

This large study looked at the volunteers’ diets and followed them up for almost eight years to see who developed coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a potentially dangerous fatty build-up in the arteries that supply the heart and can lead to a heart attack. The researchers found that women who ate higher levels of carbohydrates, particularly carbohydrates that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar (known as high-GI carbohydrates, see below), were at increased risk of developing CHD over the next eight years. The study’s main limitation is that it is difficult to rule out the possibility that other factors could have contributed to the effect observed. This study suggests that avoiding eating too much high-GI carbohydrate may help reduce the risk of heart disease, at least in women.
The researchers found that, among the study participants, the main sources of carbohydrates from high-GI foods were bread (60.8%), sugar or honey and jam (9.1%), pizza (5.4%) and rice (3.2%). The main sources of carbohydrates from low-GI foods were pasta (33.3%), fruit (23.5%) and cakes (18.6%).
In then end, the study concluded that “high dietary GL and carbohydrate intake from high-GI foods increase the overall risk of CHD in women but not men” in the Italian population they studied.

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