Low-glycaemic index diets in the management of blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Fam Pract. 2013 Oct;30(5):485-91. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmt029. Epub 2013 Jun 26.


Background: Dietary glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of the postprandial glycaemic response to carbohydrates. Observational studies have found increased triglycerides and decreased high-density lipoprotein levels in patients consuming higher GI foods.

Objective: Our aim was to review and synthesize the evidence on the effect of low-glucose index diets on serum lipid levels.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effect of low-GI diets on serum lipid levels. We searched PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Library for published, English-language, randomized controlled trials comparing low-GI and high-GI diets for the management of blood lipids in the general population with at least 4 weeks of follow-up. We conducted a meta-analysis assuming a random effects model.

Results: Four studies met the criteria for inclusion in the systematic review and meta-analysis. The individual studies did not always show a significant effect of a low-GI diet on serum lipids; however, when combined in a meta-analysis, low-GI diets were shown to have a significant effect on decreasing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol over a short time span (5-12 weeks). There was no significant effect on high-density lipoprotein or triglyceride levels. The forest plots for total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol did not show significant statistical heterogeneity (I (2) = 0%).

Conclusion: This meta-analysis suggests that a low-GI diet may help lower total and LDL cholesterol. The generalizability of these findings is likely limited by heterogeneity in individual study definitions of low- or high-GI diets.

Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; dyslipidemias; glycaemic index; hyperlipidemias; lifestyle; lipids..

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diet*
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Humans
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol