Type of carbohydrates more important than quantity for cardiovascular health

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of death worldwide. While previous studies considered the link between overall carbohydrate consumption and cardiovascular disease, a new UK study looked at whether the types of carbohydrates consumed impacted cardiovascular health and found that quality was more important than quantity.

CVDs are diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CVDs claim about 17.9 million lives annually.

Narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (coronary artery disease), strokes or aneurysms that affect blood flow to the brain (cerebrovascular disease), and diseases of the blood vessels in the arms and legs (peripheral vascular disease) are all included under the aegis of CVD.

Behavioral risk factors for cardiovascular disease are well known and include an unhealthy diet and obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and excessive alcohol use. Previous randomized controlled trials and observational studies have shown that, as far as diet is concerned, the amount of carbohydrates consumed does not affect cardiovascular health.

Carbohydrates are classified according to their chemical composition and include sugars.

Sugars are further classified as either “free sugars” (i.e. added by a manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, nectars or unsweetened fruit juices) or “non-free sugars” (mainly sugars natural compounds found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products).

Public health agencies around the world recommend limiting your intake of free sugars to reduce your risk of weight gain and tooth decay. For example, the UK National Health Service (NHS) recommends that adults consume no more than 30 g (1 ounce) of free sugars daily. For perspective, 30 g is about seven sugar cubes.

A large new study from the UK has examined the link between CVDs and the quality of carbohydrates consumed, not the quantity.

Participants tracked their intake of 206 food items and 32 beverages using an online 24-hour dietary assessment tool. Carbohydrates were divided according to type and source.

Carbohydrate types included free sugars, non-free sugars, and fiber. Carbohydrate sources were refined grain starch (including white bread, white pasta and rice, cereal, pizza, cookies, cakes, pastries and desserts) and whole grain starch (including wholemeal and wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice, bran and muesli ).

Blood samples were taken from participants to measure blood fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides), and participants were monitored over the years to see if they developed cardiovascular disease.

Results showed that intake of free sugars was significantly positively associated with CVDs in general and, more specifically, with coronary artery disease and stroke. Intake of free sugar also resulted in elevated levels of blood fat (triglycerides). On the other hand, a higher fiber intake has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Consistent with previous studies, the current study showed no association between the amount of carbohydrates consumed and the risk of developing CVD. Rather, the data suggest that CVD risk depends on the type of carbohydrate consumed, particularly the consumption of free sugars.

The study was published in BMC medicine.

Source: BMC Medicine via Scimex

Type of carbohydrates more important than quantity for cardiovascular health

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