Tag Archives: carbohydrates

London 2012 Olympic Athletes Had Worse Teeth Than Average, Perhaps Due to High Carbohydrate Consumption

BBC has the story:

The beaming smiles of gold-medal winners Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah are some of the defining memories of London 2012.

But a team at University College London says many competitors had dental problems.

“Our data and other studies suggest that, for a similar age profile, the oral health of athletes is poor. It’s quite striking,” said lead researcher Prof Ian Needleman.

He said eating large amounts of carbohydrates regularly, including sugary energy drinks, was damaging teeth.

Impaired immune system function associated with hard training may also play a role.

Carbohydrates and Sugar Raise Risk of Elderly Cognitive Impairment

The Mayo Clinic recently reported that diets high in carbohydrates and sugar increase the odds of developing cognitive impairment in the elderly years.

Mild cognitive impairment is often a precursor to incurable dementia.  Many authorities think dementia develops more often in people with diabetes, although some studies refute the linkage.

Researchers followed 940 patients with normal baseline cognitive functioning over the course of four years. Diet was assessed via questionnaire. Study participants were ages 70 to 89. As the years passed, 200 of them developed mild cognitive impairment.

Compared with those eating at the lowest level of carbohydrate consumption, those eating at the highest levels were almost twice as likely to go to develop mild cognitive impairment.

The scientists note that those eating lower on the carbohydrate continuum were eating more fats and proteins.

Steve Parker, M.D.



High-Carbohydrate Eating Promotes Heart Disease in Women

Women double their risk of developing coronary heart disease if they have high consumption of carbohydrates, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Men’s hearts, however, didn’t seem to be affected by carb consumption. I mention this crucial sex difference because many experts believe that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates is a major cause of heart disease. If true, it seems to apply only to women.

(Another nutrition science trend to keep an eye on is the thought that excessive consumption of omega-6 fats contributes to hardening of the arteries, including coronary heart disease. I’m talking about soy oil, safflower oil, corn oil, among others. No doubt, we’re eating a lot more omega-6 now than at the start of the 20th century.)

We’ve known for a while that high-glycemic-index eating was linked to heart disease in women but not men. Glycemic index is a measure of how much effect a carbohydrate-containing food has on blood glucose levels. High-glycemic-index foods raise blood sugar higher and for longer duration in the bloodstream.

High-glycemic-index foods include potatoes and white bread, for example.

The study at hand included over 47,000 Italians who were interrogated via questionnaire as to their food intake, then onset of coronary heart disease—the cause of heart attacks—was measured over the next eight years.

Among the 32,500 women, 158 new cases of coronary heart disease were found.

Researchers doing this sort of study typically compare the people eating the least carbs with those eating the most. The highest quartile of carb consumers and glycemic load had twice the rate of heart disease compared to the lowest quartile.

The Cleave-Yudkin theory of the mid-20th century proposed that excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates cause heart disease and certain other chronic systemic diseases. Gary Taubes has also written extensively about this. The research results at hand support that theory in women, but not in men.

Practical Applications

Do these research results apply to non-Italian women and men? Probably to some, but not all. More research is needed.

Women with a family history coronary heart disease—or other CHD risk factors—might be well-advised to put a limit on total carbs, high-glycemic-index foods, and glycemic load. I’d stay out of that “highest quartile.” Don’t forget: heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

See NutritionData’s Glycemic Index page for information you can apply today.

FYI, the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet are also low in glycemic index.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclaimer: All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status. Always consult your personal physician before making any dietary or exercise changes.

Addendum: Alert reader Nadia Hassan brought to my attention that I had originally written that pasta has a high glycemic index. Citing appropriate references, Nadia convinced me that pasta has a low-to-moderate glycemic index, from around 30 to 60. Its GI also is higher if over-cooked. I corrected my original post.


Sieri, Sabina, et al. Dietary glycemic load and index and risk of coronary heart disease in a large Italian cohort. The EPICOR study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 170 (2010): 640-647.

Barclay, Alan, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk – a meta-analysis of observational studies [of mostly women]. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (2008): 627-637.