Dietary glycemic load assessed by food-frequency questionnaire in relation to plasma high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and fasting plasma triacylglycerols in postmenopausal women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Mar;73(3):560-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/73.3.560.


Background: In metabolic studies, both greater carbohydrate intakes and higher glycemic indexes (GIs) raise fasting triacylglycerol concentrations. In epidemiologic studies, dietary glycemic load (GL) is positively associated with risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.

Objective: We examined both the physiologic relevance of GI and GL and the ability of dietary questionnaires to measure these variables.

Design: In the Nurses' Health Study, we measured plasma triacylglycerol concentrations in fasting blood samples from 185 healthy postmenopausal women and HDL-cholesterol concentrations in an additional 95 nonfasting samples. Dietary carbohydrate, GI, and GL were assessed by use of semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaires. The cross-sectional associations between these 3 variables and plasma triacylglycerol and HDL were assessed, with adjustment for potential confounding factors.

Results: For the lowest and highest quintiles of GL, the multivariate-adjusted geometric mean triacylglycerol concentrations were 0.98 and 1.75 mmol/L (87 and 155 mg/dL; P for trend < 0.001). Both overall GI (P for trend = 0.03) and carbohydrate (P for trend < 0.01) contributed independently to the strong positive association between GL and fasting triacylglycerol concentrations. GL was also inversely associated with HDL-cholesterol concentrations. For the lowest and highest quintiles of GL, the mean HDL-cholesterol concentrations were 1.50 and 1.34 micromol/L (58 and 52 mg/dL; P for trend = 0.03). The relation between GL and fasting triacylglycerol concentrations differed significantly by body mass index (BMI; in kg/m(2)) categories (P < 0.001 for interaction). For the lowest to the highest quintiles of GL, the mean triacylglycerol concentrations were 0.92 and 2.24 mmol/L (81 and 198 mg/dL) in women with BMIs > 25 (P for trend < 0.001) and 1.02 and 1.42 mmol/L (90 and 126 mg/dL) in women with BMIs < or = 25 (P for trend < 0.001).

Conclusion: These data support the physiologic relevance of the GL as a potential risk factor for coronary artery disease in free-living women, particularly those prone to insulin resistance. These findings also document the ability of a semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire to assess dietary GIs and GLs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diet Records
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Postmenopause
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Triglycerides / blood*


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Triglycerides