Low-glycemic foods may protect the heart

June 8, 2005 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Low-glycemic foods may protect the heart

According to recent study findings from researchers in Boston, low-glycemic foods may protect the heart and blood vessels better than low-fat foods.

The glycemic index measures how efficiently the body can metabolize carbohydrates. It ranks carbohydrates by how much a person's blood sugar rises immediately after eating, and tends to favor high-fiber foods that take longer to digest. Foods that have a low-glycemic index are digested relatively slowly and as a result, cause smaller increases in blood sugar. Low-glycemic foods include non-starchy vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and diary products.

Researchers discovered that when obese people consumed as many low-glycemic carbohydrates as they wanted, they lost just as much weight in 12 months as people who stuck with a conventional, calorie-restricted low-fat diet. In the study, dieters who watched their glycemic indices also experienced a larger decrease in fatty substances in the blood linked to heart disease and had a drop in levels of a protein that interferes with the body's ability to break down blood clots.

In contrast, low-fat dieters had an increase in levels of the same protein, which may put them at higher risk of heart attack.

Researchers had 23 obese young adults follow either a low-fat diet or a diet in which they ate low-glycemic index foods for one year. As part of the low-glycemic index diet, people could eat as much as they wanted of foods with a low index, and got roughly 45 to 50 percent of calories from carbohydrates, and 30 to 35 percent from fat. Low-fat dieters cut their daily intake by 250 to 500 calories, limited fat to less than 30 percent of their total calories, and got between 55 and 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates.

Even though low-glycemic index dieters had no calorie limits, they likely didn't overeat because they felt less hunger after eating foods that take longer to digest.

Researchers indicate these findings are promising in terms of reducing the risk of heart disease, although more research is needed.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.