Effects of an ad libitum low-glycemic load diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors in obese young adults

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):976-82. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.5.976.


Background: The optimal nutritional approach for the prevention of cardiovascular disease among obese persons remains a topic of intense controversy. Available approaches range from conventional low-fat to very-low-carbohydrate diets.

Objective: The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the efficacy of an ad libitum low-glycemic load diet, without strict limitation on carbohydrate intake, as an alternative to a conventional low-fat diet.

Design: A randomized controlled trial compared 2 dietary treatments in obese young adults (n = 23) over 12 mo. The experimental treatment emphasized ad libitum consumption of low-glycemic-index foods, with 45-50% of energy from carbohydrates and 30-35% from fat. The conventional treatment was restricted in energy (250-500 kcal/d deficit) and fat (<30% of energy), with 55-60% of energy from carbohydrate. We compared changes in study outcomes by repeated-measures analysis of log-transformed data and expressed the results as mean percentage change.

Results: Body weight decreased significantly over a 6-mo intensive intervention in both the experimental and conventional diet groups (-8.4% and -7.8%, respectively) and remained below baseline at 12 mo (-7.8% and -6.1%, respectively). The experimental diet group showed a significantly greater mean decline in plasma triacylglycerols than did the conventional diet group (-37.2% and -19.1%, respectively; P = 0.005). Mean plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 concentrations decreased (-39.0%) in the experimental diet group but increased (33.1%) in the conventional diet group (P = 0.004). Changes in cholesterol concentrations, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity did not differ significantly between the groups.

Conclusion: An ad libitum low-glycemic load diet may be more efficacious than a conventional, energy-restricted, low-fat diet in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Cholesterol