BACKGROUND: High carbohydrate intake raises blood triglycerides, glucose, and insulin; reduces HDLs; and may increase risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Epidemiological studies indicate that high dietary glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are associated with increased CHD risk.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to determine whether dietary GI, GL, and available carbohydrates are associated with CHD risk in both sexes.
METHODS: This large prospective study-the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-consisted of 338,325 participants who completed a dietary questionnaire. HRs with 95% CIs for a CHD event, in relation to intake of GI, GL, and carbohydrates, were estimated using covariate-adjusted Cox proportional hazard models.
RESULTS: After 12.8 y (median), 6378 participants had experienced a CHD event. High GL was associated with greater CHD risk [HR 1.16 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.31) highest vs. lowest quintile, p-trend 0.035; HR 1.18 (95% CI: 1.07, 1.29) per 50 g/day of GL intake]. The association between GL and CHD risk was evident in subjects with BMI (in kg/m2) ≥25 [HR: 1.22 (95% CI: 1.11, 1.35) per 50 g/d] but not in those with BMI <25 [HR: 1.09 (95% CI: 0.98, 1.22) per 50 g/d) (P-interaction = 0.022). The GL-CHD association did not differ between men [HR: 1.19 (95% CI: 1.08, 1.30) per 50 g/d] and women [HR: 1.22 (95% CI: 1.07, 1.40) per 50 g/d] (test for interaction not significant). GI was associated with CHD risk only in the continuous model [HR: 1.04 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.08) per 5 units/d]. High available carbohydrate was associated with greater CHD risk [HR: 1.11 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.18) per 50 g/d]. High sugar intake was associated with greater CHD risk [HR: 1.09 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.17) per 50 g/d].
CONCLUSIONS: This large pan-European study provides robust additional support for the hypothesis that a diet that induces a high glucose response is associated with greater CHD risk.