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High Glycemic Index Diet May Up Risk for CV Disease, Death

MONDAY, March 1, 2021 -- Diets with a high glycemic index are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and death, according to a study conducted on five continents published online Feb. 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues examined data from 137,851 participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living on five continents to examine the association between glycemic index and cardiovascular disease. Dietary intake was determined using country-specific food-frequency questionnaires, and glycemic index and load were estimated based on consumption of seven categories of carbohydrates.

During a median follow-up of 9.5 years, there were 8,780 deaths and 8,252 major cardiovascular events. The researchers found that a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk for a major cardiovascular event or death after performing adjustments comparing the lowest with the highest glycemic-index quintiles, both among those with and without preexisting cardiovascular disease (hazard ratios, 1.51 and 1.21, respectively). A high glycemic index was also associated with an elevated risk for death from cardiovascular causes. The results with respect to glycemic load were similar for participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline, but not for those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.

"I have been studying the impact of high glycemic diets for many decades, and this study ratifies that the consumption of high amounts of poor quality carbohydrates is an issue worldwide," Jenkins said in a statement. "Diets high in poor quality carbohydrates are associated with reduced longevity, while diets rich in high quality carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, and legumes have beneficial effects."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, several of which provided funding for the study.

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