Most data regarding the association between the glycemic index and cardiovascular disease come from high-income Western populations, with little information from non-Western countries with low or middle incomes. To fill this gap, data are needed from a large, geographically diverse population.
This analysis includes 137,851 participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living on five continents, with a median follow-up of 9.5 years. We used country-specific food-frequency questionnaires to determine dietary intake and estimated the glycemic index and glycemic load on the basis of the consumption of seven categories of carbohydrate foods. We calculated hazard ratios using multivariable Cox frailty models. The primary outcome was a composite of a major cardiovascular event (cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure) or death from any cause.
In the study population, 8780 deaths and 8252 major cardiovascular events occurred during the follow-up period. After performing extensive adjustments comparing the lowest and highest glycemic-index quintiles, we found that a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of a major cardiovascular event or death, both among participants with preexisting cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio, 1.51; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25 to 1.82) and among those without such disease (hazard ratio, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.34). Among the components of the primary outcome, a high glycemic index was also associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes. The results with respect to glycemic load were similar to the findings regarding the glycemic index among the participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline, but the association was not significant among those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.
In this study, a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death. (Funded by the Population Health Research Institute and others.)
Funding and Disclosures
Supported by the Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences Research Institute, the
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This article was published on February 24, 2021, at NEJM.org.
We thank Ruchi Patel for her work in creating food-group categories and for computing carbohydrate values that were used for deriving the glycemic index and glycemic load; Meaghan Kavanagh and Brendan Gleason for their work in validating the seven-category glycemic index approach; Melanie Paquette and Sandhya Sahye-Pudaruth for assistance in the preparation of earlier versions of Figures 2 and S3; and Darshna Patel for helping to coordinate the manuscript preparation.
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