Research news from Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy: May 2004

A Low Glycemic Index Diet May Help Decrease Disease Risk Factors

Currently, an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the US population have a condition known as the metabolic syndrome, predisposing them to increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Recently, Nicola McKeown, PhD and colleagues at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts found that people who ate a low glycemic index diet improved the symptoms of this syndrome, supporting their previous findings that a high dietary glycemic index was associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in the same population.

The glycemic index characterizes the rate of carbohydrate absorption after a meal. A low glycemic index diet involves eating certain carbohydrate-containing foods that blunt the rise in blood sugar levels after eating. High glycemic index foods include foods such as potatoes, bananas, white breads and rice, french fries and refined breakfast cereals. These foods tend to raise blood sugar faster than low glycemic index foods that slow down absorption, such as high fiber breads, oats and milk. The research team examined the relationship between the dietary glycemic index and several metabolic markers of disease risk in the Framingham Offspring Cohort and found certain health benefits associated with low glycemic index diets.

McKeown and her colleagues found that a low glycemic diet improved several factors that affect diabetics including lowering blood pressure, fasting triglycerides, fasting insulin and other metabolic risk factors. Additionally, the diet was found to raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol.) The researchers suggest that as metabolic syndrome is an identifiable and potentially modifiable risk state for both diabetes and heart disease, people may benefit from replacing foods that have a high glycemic index with low glycemic index carbohydrates to help reduce the risk of developing the

Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
Tufts University

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