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White Bread, Rice and Other Carbohydrates Increase Heart Risk, Study Finds
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Topics: Heart Carbohydrates Bread Rice Whole Grains

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Research has found that women who eat a lot of foods high in blood-sugar spiking carbohydrates, such as white bread and rice, are twice as likely to develop heart diseases.

Complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and pasta, were not associated with the increased risk of heart disease. This suggests that the problem is not from eating carbohydrates as a whole, but only rapidly absorbed carbohydrates.

The information comes from a study of about 48,000 people who were asked about their diets in detail. Previous studies have also shown a similar link between simple carbohydrates and heart disease risk.

Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates - such as bread, rice, cereal, bagels, etc. - is not a smart move for your heart. When the body takes in more carbohydrates than can be used, the excess carbohydrate energy is converted into fat by the liver. This process occurs to help the body maintain blood sugar levels, but it can also increase triglyceride concentrations, which will increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Insulin, stimulated by an overabundant consumption of grains, starches and sweets, is also the cause of many problems. High insulin levels suppress two important hormones - glucagons and growth hormones, which are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development.

So insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off your body's ability to lose that fat. Excess weight and obesity not only lead to heart disease but also a wide variety of other diseases.

Study Details

In this study, women who ate the most high glycemic index foods had more than double the risk of developing heart disease as women who ate the fewest.

The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels. Low GI foods produce only small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels, and are therefore better for good long-term health.

Previous studies, including one published in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition, have also linked high-carbohydrate diets to inducing liver fat production and insulin resistance, to heart disease.

The body is simply not designed to process large amounts of refined sugars and grains, and this can be seen though the many health problems that occur when they are overconsumed.

  • A study of more than 2,300 Italians found that high bread consumption significantly raised the risk of renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.

  • In postmenopausal women, the risk of breast cancer was raised by 87 percent in those who ate the most refined sugars and grains.

  • Diets high in carbohydrates that are quickly digested and absorbed, such as white bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugars and corn syrups, were associated with eye tissue damage that could lead to blindness.

Refined carbohydrates not only cause problems with fat production, insulin resistance and increased triglycerides, they are also nutritionally devoid foods.

For example, when flour is refined, the most nutritious part of the grain is removed, so the flour essentially becomes a form of sugar. Other elements lost in the refining process include many of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, and most of the iron, magnesium, Vitamin E and B vitamins. White flour is often bleached during the refining process as well, which adds another potentially dangerous chemical into the bread.

To promote heart health, aim to eat a diet rich in whole, unrefined foods like complex carbohydrates, found in fruit, vegetables, nuts seeds and whole grains.


  • Sieri S, Krogh V, Berrino F, et al. Dietary glycemic load and index and risk of coronary heart disease in a large italian cohort: the EPICOR study. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Apr 12;170(7):640-7.

  • Schwarz JM, Linfoot P, Dare D, Aghajanian K. bHepatic de novo lipogenesis in normoinsulinemic and hyperinsulinemic subjects consuming high-fat, low-carbohydrate and low-fat, high-carbohydrate isoenergetic diets. Am J Clin Nutr, 2003 Vol. 77, No. 1, 43-50.

  • Silvera SAN, Jain M, Howe GR, Miller AB, Roha TE. Dietary carbohydrates and breast cancer risk: A prospective study of the roles of overall glycemic index and glycemic load. Inter J cancer, 2004. Vol 114:4, P 653  658.

  • Bravi F, Bosetti C, Scotti L. Food groups and renal cell carcinoma: A case-control study from Italy. Inter J cancer, 2003. Vol 120:3, P681  685.

  • Chiu CJ, Milton RC, Klein R, Gensler G, Taylor A. Dietary carbohydrate and the progression of age-related macular degeneration: a prospective study from the Age-Related Eye disease Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;86(4):1210-8.

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