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Quick Study: Not all carbohydrates affect the heart equally

Tuesday, April 27, 2010; HE02

HEART DISEASE

Not all carbs affect the heart equally.

THE QUESTION Might the type of carbohydrates that people consume make a difference in the likelihood that they will develop heart disease?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on the diets and health of 44,132 middle-age adults who did not have cardiovascular disease. In about an eight-year span, 463 of them developed coronary heart disease. Women whose diets included the most carbohydrates -- especially high-glycemic-index carbohydrates, which convert to sugar in the blood very quickly -- were more than twice as likely to have a heart disease diagnosis as were those who took in the fewest carbohydrates. No link between carbohydrate intake and heart disease was found among men.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Women who consume carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, such as rice, white bread, baked potatoes and watermelon. In the United States, more women die each year of heart disease than die from breast cancer and lung cancer combined.

CAVEATS Data on food consumption came from the participants' responses to questionnaires. The authors speculated that the differing results for men and women might indicate that male and female hormones affect the way the body converts carbohydrates to blood sugar.

FIND THIS STUDY April 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT heart disease at http://www.cdc.gov and http://www.mayoclinic.com.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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