Women who eat diets heavy in
certain carbohydrates may be at greater risk of coronary heart disease,
according to researchers.
A study of more than 47,000 Italian
adults found that women whose diets contained a lot of bread, pizza and rice
doubled their heart disease risk.
These foods have a high glycaemic
index (GI), meaning they release energy and raise blood sugar quickly.
The findings are published in
Archives of Internal Medicine.
The experts say much more research
is needed to understand why these high GI foods, rather than carbohydrates per
se, appear to pose a risk – and why the risk applies to women and not men.
Low GI carbohydrates, such as
pasta, which release energy and raise blood sugar far slower, showed no such
link with heart disease.
Victoria Taylor, senior heart
health dietician at The British Heart Foundation, said that for women, choosing
lower GI foods could be useful in helping them to reduce their risk of coronary
She said: “They could try
broadening the types of bread and cereals they eat to include granary, rye or
oat; including more beans, pulses; and accompanying meals with a good helping
of fruit and vegetables.”
The doctors who produced the report
studied 15,171 men and 32,578 women who completed dietary questionnaires over
This allowed the researchers to
calculate overall carbohydrate intakes as well as the average glycaemic index
of the foods eaten and the glycaemic loads of the diets.
The glycaemic index is a measure of
how much a food raises blood glucose levels compared with the same amount of
glucose or white bread.
After seven years, 463 participants
had developed coronary heart disease.
The researchers found that women
whose diet had the highest glycaemic load had more than double the risk of
heart disease compared with those women with the lowest glycaemic load.
The authors concluded: “Thus,
a high consumption of carbohydrates from high-glycaemic index foods, rather
than the overall quantity of carbohydrates consumed, appears to influence the
risk of developing coronary heart disease.”
The researchers believe that a
high-glycaemic diet may dampen ‘good’ cholesterol levels in women more than in
But further research is needed to
verify the absence of a link between high-glucose foods and cardiovascular
disease in men, says the study.