A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6):1455-61. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.6.1455.


Background: Little is known about the effects of the amount and type of carbohydrates on risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Objective: The objective of this study was to prospectively evaluate the relations of the amount and type of carbohydrates with risk of CHD.

Design: A cohort of 75521 women aged 38-63 y with no previous diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, angina, stroke, or other cardiovascular diseases in 1984 was followed for 10 y. Each participant's dietary glycemic load was calculated as a function of glycemic index, carbohydrate content, and frequency of intake of individual foods reported on a validated food-frequency questionnaire at baseline. All dietary variables were updated in 1986 and 1990.

Results: During 10 y of follow-up (729472 person-years), 761 cases of CHD (208 fatal and 553 nonfatal) were documented. Dietary glycemic load was directly associated with risk of CHD after adjustment for age, smoking status, total energy intake, and other coronary disease risk factors. The relative risks from the lowest to highest quintiles of glycemic load were 1.00, 1.01, 1. 25, 1.51, and 1.98 (95% CI: 1.41, 2.77 for the highest quintile; P for trend < 0.0001). Carbohydrate classified by glycemic index, as opposed to its traditional classification as either simple or complex, was a better predictor of CHD risk. The association between dietary glycemic load and CHD risk was most evident among women with body weights above average ¿ie, body mass index (in kg/m(2)) >/= 23.

Conclusion: These epidemiologic data suggest that a high dietary glycemic load from refined carbohydrates increases the risk of CHD, independent of known coronary disease risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Edible Grain
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Vitamin E
  • Folic Acid