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A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women

Simin Liu, Walter C Willett, Meir J Stampfer, Frank B Hu, Mary Franz, Laura Sampson, Charles H Hennekens and JoAnn E Manson

1 From the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, the Harvard School of Public Health; the Channing Laboratory; and the Division of Preventive Medicine, the Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.


Background: Little is known about the effects of the amount and type of carbohydrates on risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Objective: The objective of this study was to prospectively evaluate the relations of the amount and type of carbohydrates with risk of CHD.

Design: A cohort of 75521 women aged 3863 y with no previous diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, angina, stroke, or other cardiovascular diseases in 1984 was followed for 10 y. Each participant's dietary glycemic load was calculated as a function of glycemic index, carbohydrate content, and frequency of intake of individual foods reported on a validated food-frequency questionnaire at baseline. All dietary variables were updated in 1986 and 1990.

Results: During 10 y of follow-up (729472 person-years), 761 cases of CHD (208 fatal and 553 nonfatal) were documented. Dietary glycemic load was directly associated with risk of CHD after adjustment for age, smoking status, total energy intake, and other coronary disease risk factors. The relative risks from the lowest to highest quintiles of glycemic load were 1.00, 1.01, 1.25, 1.51, and 1.98 (95% CI: 1.41, 2.77 for the highest quintile; P for trend < 0.0001). Carbohydrate classified by glycemic index, as opposed to its traditional classification as either simple or complex, was a better predictor of CHD risk. The association between dietary glycemic load and CHD risk was most evident among women with body weights above average [ie, body mass index (in kg/m2)

Conclusion: These epidemiologic data suggest that a high dietary glycemic load from refined carbohydrates increases the risk of CHD, independent of known coronary disease risk factors.


Key Words: Diet carbohydrate fiber glycemic load glycemic index coronary heart disease Nurses' Health Study women

This article has been cited by other articles:


  • Schneeman, B. O (2001). Use of glycemic index in predicting risk of coronary heart disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 73: 130-130 [Full Text]  
  • Katz, D. L (2001). Glycemic load and the risk of coronary heart disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 73: 131-132 [Full Text]  
  • Liu, S., Manson, J. E, Hu, F. B, Willett, W. C (2001). Reply to DL Katz. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 73: 132-133 [Full Text]  
  • Parks, E. J (2001). A targeted goal for energy-restricted diets in the management of coronary risk?. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 73: 147-148 [Full Text]  

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