Low glycaemic index diets and blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Jan;23(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jul 25.


Aims: Low glycaemic index (GI) diets are beneficial in the management of hyperglycemia. Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of mortality in diabetes therefore it is important to understand the effects of GI on blood lipids. The aim was to systematically review randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of low GI diets on blood lipids.

Data synthesis: We searched OVID Medline, Embase and Cochrane library to March 2012. Random effects meta-analyses were performed on twenty-eight RCTs comparing low- with high GI diets over at least 4 weeks (1272 participants; studies ranged from 6 to 155 participants); one was powered on blood lipids, 3 had adequate allocation concealment. Low GI diets significantly reduced total (-0.13 mmol/l, 95%CI -0.22 to -0.04, P = 0.004, 27 trials, 1441 participants, I(2) = 0%) and LDL-cholesterol (-0.16 mmol/l, 95%CI -0.24 to -0.08, P < 0.0001, 23 trials, 1281 participants, I(2) = 0%) compared with high GI diets and independently of weight loss. Subgroup analyses suggest that reductions in LDL-C are greatest in studies of shortest duration and greatest magnitude of GI reduction. Furthermore, lipid improvements appear greatest and most reliable when the low GI intervention is accompanied by an increase in dietary fibre. Sensitivity analyses, removing studies without adequate allocation concealment, lost statistical significance but retained suggested mean falls of ~0.10 mmol/l in both. There were no effects on HDL-cholesterol (MD -0.03 mmol/l, 95%CI -0.06 to 0.00, I(2) = 0%), or triglycerides (MD 0.01 mmol/l, 95%CI -0.06 to 0.08, I(2) = 0%).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis provides consistent evidence that low GI diets reduce total and LDL-cholesterol and have no effect on HDL-cholesterol or triglycerides.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Lipids
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol