To clarify the role of dietary carbohydrate, glycemic index (GI), and glycemic load (GL) in progression from health to coronary heart disease (CHD) by determining disease-nutrient risk relation (RR) values needed for intake ranges within jurisdictions and across the globe.
We performed a literature search of MEDLINE and EMBASE for prospective cohort studies that used truly valid dietary instruments in heathy adults published from January 1, 2000, to June 5, 2018. Relevant observations were extracted by 2 reviewers independently. We used dose-response meta-analysis accounting for nonindependence of results within studies. Bradford-Hill criteria were used to assess causality.
Eligible studies had a mean follow-up of 11 years (range, 5-19 years), were conducted in North America, Europe, and East Asia, and yielded combined RRs of 1.44 (95% CI, 1.25-1.65) per 65 g/d GL (11 studies) and 1.24 (95% CI, 1.12-1.38) per 10 U GI (10 studies) (glucose scale). The CHD-carbohydrate RR on GI was 1.66 (95% CI, 1.23-2.25) per 98 g/d of carbohydrates per 10 units GI. The 65 g/d GL, 10 U GI, and 98 g/d carbohydrate values corresponded to oral intakes from the 10th to the 90th percentiles within sampled populations. Inconsistencies were minor (I2≤20%), as were small-study effects (P=.61 for GL and P=.26 for GI). Funnel plots were symmetric. Cubic spline dose-response meta-analysis yielded RRs as follows: across the global range for GL (55-290 g/d), 5.5 (95% CI, 3.1-9.8) (I2=0); for GI (47-82 U), 2.71 (95% CI, 1.47-4.40) (I2=0); and for the CHD-carbohydrate dependence on GI (50-80 U), 4.57 (95% CI, 1.86-11.4) (I2=16%). Bradford-Hill criteria indicated that these relations were probably causal.
Strong and probably causal CHD-GL and GI RRs exist within populations. The RRs were remarkably higher across global exposures. The results support the consideration of these markers of carbohydrate food quality in dietary guidelines for general populations.