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Do Carbohydrates Affect the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease?

A recent American study evaluates the relationship between the quantity and quality of carbohydrate intake and the risk of coronary heart disease.

Medical advancement has reduced the occurrence of major coronary heart disease in the United States. However, it remains the leading cause of death in both males and females. The prevalence of risk factors for coronary heart disease continues to increase. Conditions such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and overweight contribute to a greater risk of major coronary heart disease. The diagnoses of these risk factors are often affiliated with environmental conditions and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Most direct treatments and preventative measures recommend dietary plans that are low in fat, however, substantial research on the relationship between carbohydrate intake and coronary heart disease is lacking. As a result, an American study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition utilized different measures of carbohydrate intake to assess their potential correlation with the prevalence of coronary heart disease.

The researchers collected information on the lifestyle habits and dietary patterns of 42,865 males and 75,020 females from the Nurses’ Health Study and its follow-up study. All the individuals included in the research were void of any diagnoses of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at the initial stage. The study used a food-frequency questionnaire to record the dietary habits of the participants. Individuals were asked about the frequency of consumption of certain foods on a scale ranging from zero times a day to six or more times a day. The data was adjusted for external lifestyle factors such as physical activity and metabolic activity and was then used to calculate nutrient intake. The study also included incidences of coronary heart disease, in terms of a fatal coronary heart disease event or a non-fatal myocardial infarction.

The study recorded 7,320 cases of incident coronary heart disease. The researchers found that after adjusting for lifestyle habits, the higher end of carbohydrate intake was not affiliated with coronary heart disease. Total fiber intake was also not found to be correlated with coronary heart disease. However, cereal fiber, in particular, was related with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. The study concluded that the dietary fiber obtained from cereal contributed to improved quality of carbohydrate intake. Higher starch to cereal fiber and carbohydrate to cereal fiber ratios were attributed to greater risks of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular events.

Although research pertaining to the association of carbohydrates with coronary heart disease has showcased largely inconsistent results, this study provides a valuable lead towards the consideration of carbohydrate quality. By revealing the preventative nature of cereal fiber, further research may result in the implementation of this data in nutritional settings. With solidified information on carbohydrate quality, dietitians may be able to provide individualized dietary plans for those who carry a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular conditions and coronary heart disease.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Alessa, H. B., Cohen, R., Malik, V. S., Adebamowo, S. N., Rimm, E. B., Manson, J. E., . . . Hu, F. B. (2018). Carbohydrate quality and quantity and risk of coronary heart disease among US women and men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 107(2), 257-267. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqx060

Shrishti Ahuja BSc
Shrishti Ahuja BSc
Shrishti is currently working towards her HBSc degree in Medical Science and English Literature from Western University. She enjoys taking on challenging opportunities that allow her to communicate complex scientific concepts to a variety of audiences. Along with the Medical News Bulletin, she is actively involved in the orientation program at her university, is part of a dance team, and enjoys travelling.
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