Glycaemic index as a determinant of serum HDL-cholesterol concentration

Lancet. 1999 Mar 27;353(9158):1045-8. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(98)07164-5.


Background: Diet influences the prevalence of coronary heart disease (CHD). Insulin sensitivity and concentrations of HDL cholesterol, two metabolic predictors of CHD, are also influenced by diet. Dietary carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index cause a high postprandial glucose and insulin response, and are associated with decreased insulin sensitivity and an increased risk of CHD. This study examined whether the glycaemic index of dietary carbohydrates is a determinant of serum HDL-cholesterol concentrations.

Method: Dietary, anthropometric, and biochemical data from the 1986-87 Survey of British Adults (n=2200) were reanalysed by a multiple regression model, which examined the relation between serum total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, and calculated LDL-cholesterol concentrations and various dietary characteristics, including the type of carbohydrate, the glycaemic index, and fat intake.

Findings: Among the 1420 participants with complete data, there was a significant negative relation between serum HDL-cholesterol concentration and the glycaemic index of the diet for both men (regression coefficient -0.00724 [95% CI -0.0101 to -0.00434], p=0.02) and women (-0.01326 [-0.0162 to -0.0102], p<0.0001). No other significant relation was found with total cholesterol or LDL-cholesterol concentration or with any other dietary carbohydrate or fat constituent.

Interpretation: In a cross-sectional study of middle-aged adults, the glycaemic index of the diet was the only dietary variable significantly related to serum HDL-cholesterol concentration. Thus, the glycaemic index of the diet is a stronger predictor than dietary fat intake of serum HDL-cholesterol concentration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet Surveys
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / classification*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Cholesterol