The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed over 47,000 Italian adults for nearly eight years. Participants completed dietary questionnaires, which researchers analyzed.
During the eight-year follow up period researchers found that women who consumed the most carbohydrates had approximately twice the risk of heart disease as those consumed the least.
When these carbohydrates were separated into high and low glycemic index categories, researchers found an increased intake of high glycemic index foods was significantly associated with greater risk of coronary heart disease, whereas low glycemic index carbohydrates were not.
The women whose diet had the highest glycemic load had 2.24 times the risk of heart disease compared to women with the lowest glycemic load.
Interestingly, overall carbohydrate intake, glycemic index and glycemic load were not associated with heart disease risk in men.
Although more studies are needed on the subject, researchers speculate it's the quality, rather than quantity, of carbohydrates consumed that appears to influence the risk of coronary heart disease.
The glycemic index is a measure of how much a food raises blood glucose levels compared with the same amount of glucose or white bread. A related measure, the glycemic load, is calculated based on the glycemic index of a given food and also on the total amount of carbohydrates it contains.
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