The glycemic index and cardiovascular disease risk

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2007 Dec;9(6):479-85. doi: 10.1007/s11883-007-0064-x.


Postprandial hyperglycemia is increasingly recognized as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Glycemic "spikes" may adversely affect vascular structure and function via multiple mechanisms, including (acutely and/or chronically) oxidative stress, inflammation, low-density lipoprotein oxidation, protein glycation, and procoagulant activity. Postprandial glycemia can be reliably predicted by considering both the amount and type of carbohydrate. In particular, the glycemic index (GI), a measure of postprandial glycemic potency weight for weight of carbohydrate, has provided insights that knowledge of the sugar or starch content has not. In prospective observational studies, dietary GI and/or glycemic load independently predict cardiovascular disease, with relative risk ratios of 1.2 to 1.7 comparing highest and lowest quintiles. In randomized controlled trials in overweight subjects, diets based on low-GI carbohydrates have produced better cardiovascular-related outcomes than conventional low-fat diets. Taken together, the findings suggest that health professionals may be able to improve cardiovascular outcomes by recommending the judicious use of low- GI/glycemic load foods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology
  • Postprandial Period / physiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Loss / physiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fiber