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Curr Opin Lipidol. 2005 Feb;16(1):69-75.

Glycemic index, postprandial glycemia and cardiovascular disease.

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Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.



Several lines of evidence indicate that exaggerated postprandial glycemia puts individuals without diabetes at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In large, prospective observational studies, including meta-analyses, higher 120 min post-load blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (a measure of average blood glucose level over time) independently predict cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in individuals without diabetes. These findings imply that the glycemic nature of dietary carbohydrates may also be relevant. We aim to provide a clearer perspective on how the glycemic impact of carbohydrates may modulate development of cardiovascular disease.


In ecological studies, average dietary glycemic index (a measure of the postprandial glycemic potential of carbohydrates) and glycemic load (average glycemic index x amount of carbohydrate) predicts coronary infarct and cardiovascular disease risk factors, including HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and C-reactive protein. In short-term intervention studies of overweight and hyperlipidemic patients, low glycemic index diets lead to improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors, including reduced LDL cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity, as well as greater body fat loss on energy-restricted diets. Molecular studies indicate that physiological hyperglycemia induces overproduction of superoxide by the mitochondrial electron-transport chain, resulting in inflammatory responses and endothelial dysfunction.


Taken together, the findings suggest that conventional high-carbohydrate diets with their high glycemic index may be suboptimal, particularly in insulin-resistant individuals. Because around one in four adults has impairments in postprandial glucose regulation, the glycemic potential of carbohydrates warrants further investigation in cardiovascular disease prevention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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