Effect of Dietary Carbohydrate Type on Serum Cardiometabolic Risk Indicators and Adipose Tissue Inflammatory Markers

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Sep 1;103(9):3430-3438. doi: 10.1210/jc.2018-00667.


Context and objective: Direct comparisons between types of dietary carbohydrate in terms of cardiometabolic risk indicators are limited. This study was designed to compare the effects of an isocaloric exchange of simple, refined, and unrefined carbohydrates on serum cardiometabolic risk indicators, adipose tissue inflammatory markers, and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) fractional cholesterol efflux.

Design, participants, and measures: Participants [postmenopausal women and men (N = 11), 65 ± 8 years, body mass index 29.8 ± 3.2 kg/m2, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ≥2.6 mmol/L] were provided with diets (60% energy from total carbohydrate, 15% from protein, 25% from fat) for 4.5 weeks in a randomized crossover design, with 2-week washout periods. The variable component was an isocaloric exchange of simple, refined, or unrefined carbohydrate-containing foods. Serum lipoprotein, glucose, insulin, and inflammatory marker concentrations were measured. Abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue was aspirated to assess macrophage and inflammatory marker gene expression and ex vivo cytokine secretion, and PBMCs were isolated to assess ex vivo fractional cholesterol efflux.

Results: Fasting serum LDL and non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol concentrations were higher after the refined compared with simple or unrefined carbohydrate-enriched diets (P < 0.01). Other serum measures, ex vivo fractional cholesterol efflux and adipose tissue gene expression and ex vivo cytokine secretion, were similar between diets.

Conclusions: Diets enriched in refined compared with simple or unrefined carbohydrate resulted in higher fasting serum LDL and non-HDL cholesterol concentrations but had little effect on other cardiometabolic risk indicators. This small study raises the intriguing possibility that refined carbohydrate may have unique adverse effects on cardiometabolic risk indicators distinct from simple and unrefined carbohydrate.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01610661.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Diet / methods*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Fasting / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause
  • Risk Factors
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Carbohydrates
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Insulin
  • Lipoproteins, LDL

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01610661