Study Spotlight

Study Spotlight

Diet rich in low-glycemic food may reduce markers of inflammation


A study published in The Journal of Nutrition shows that a diet rich in slowly digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and other high-fiber foods, may reduce markers of inflammation associated with chronic disease.

The controlled, randomized feeding study, which involved 80 healthy Seattle, Wash.-area men and women—half of normal weight and half overweight or obese—found that among overweight and obese study participants, a low-glycemic-load diet reduced a biomarker of inflammation called C-reactive protein by about 22%.

Study participants completed two 28-day feeding periods in random order—one featuring high-glycemic-load carbohydrates, which typically are low-fiber, highly processed carbs such as white sugar, fruit in canned syrup, and white flour; and the other featuring low-glycemic-load carbohydrates, which are typically higher in fiber, such as whole-grain breads and cereals. The diets were identical in carbohydrate content, calories, and macronutrients. All food was provided by the Hutchinson Center’s Human Nutrition Laboratory, and study participants maintained weight and physical activity throughout. “Glycemic load” refers to how the intake of carbohydrates, adjusted for total grams of carbohydrate, affects blood-sugar levels. Lentils or pinto beans have a glycemic load that is approximately three times lower than instant mashed potatoes, for example, and therefore won’t cause blood-sugar levels to rise as quickly.

“Lowering inflammatory factors is important for reducing a broad range of health risks. Showing that a low-glycemic-load diet can improve health is important for the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese,” said lead author Marian Neuhouser, a member of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.

The researchers also found that among overweight and obese study participants, a low-glycemic-load diet modestly increased—by about 5%—blood levels of a protein hormone called adiponectin. This hormone plays a key role in protecting against several cancers, including breast cancer, as well as metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and hardening of the arteries.

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