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A high-carbohydrate diet increases the risk of heart disease.

* THE STUDY AND RESULTS

Harvard University researchers surveyed 75,521 women between the ages of 38 to 63 participating in a larger Nurses' Health Study. The women did not have any history of diabetes or heart disease. Using dietary information the women provided, the researchers calculated a value they called the glycemic load for each woman, based on the carbohydrate content of the foods consumed and calculations of how that food would increase blood sugar. The calculations also controlled for the amount of fat the women ate. Ten years later, 761 women had developed heart disease, 208 of whom had died from the disease. Glycemic load was associated with the risk of developing heart disease. When the researchers divided the women into five groups of increasing glycemic load, the women in the highest group had twice as much risk of developing heart disease as those in the lowest glycemic load group. In addition, women with average and above-average weights had an increased risk. Starchy foods, such as white rice and potatoes, heavily contributed to the glycemic load, while fruits and vegetables did not.

* WHAT'S NEW

This is the first study to investigate the association between the amount and type of carbohydrates in diet with the risk of developing heart disease in humans.

* CAVEATS

The study relies totally on the memory of the participants. The results need to be verified in men.

* BOTTOM LINE

Women who consume a high-carbohydrate diet may increase their risk of developing heart disease. This does not mean the recent low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet fads are necessarily healthful. The researchers did not study the effect of protein in diet.

* FIND THIS STUDY

June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; abstract online at http://www.ajcn.org/current.shtml.

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