Over the years, the long-term Harvard Nurses’ Health Study has provided results that support some of the premises upon which Dr. Atkins has based his philosophy. Now research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows the significance of differentiating between carbs based upon their rating on the glycemic index to reduce risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)(1). The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly glucose is absorbed after a person eats, how high blood glucose rises and how quickly it returns to normal. Slow absorption, a modest rise in blood sugar and a smooth return to normal are considered desirable.
More than 75,000 women aged 38 to 63 with no cardiovascular diseases were monitored for a decade. Using food-frequency questionnaires, researchers found that the higher a woman’s intake of foods with a higher glycemic index, the higher the risk of CHD. Classifying carbs by glycemic index, instead of as simple or complex, was a better predictor of CHD risk.
To optimize heart health, choose foods such as green veggies and berries with low glycemic index ratings. If you occasionally must have foods with simple carbs, avoid those made from white flour; instead, have a modest portion of brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.
1. Liu, S., Willett, W.C., Stampfer, M.J., et al., ” A Prospective Study of Dietary Glycemic Load, Carbohydrate Intake, and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in US Women,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(6), 2000, pages 1455-1461.