Chapter

Atherosclerosis: Diet and Drugs

Volume 170 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 231-261

Carbohydrates and Dietary Fiber

  • P.M. SuterAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Medical Policlinic, University Hospital Zürich

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Abstract

The most widely spread eating habit is characterized by a reduced intake of dietary fiber, an increased intake of simple sugars, a high intake of refined grain products, an altered fat composition of the diet, and a dietary pattern characterized by a high glycemic load, an increased body weight and reduced physical activity. In this chapter the effects of this eating pattern on disease risk will be outlined. There are no epidemiological studies showing that the increase of glucose, fructose or sucrose intake is directly and independently associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis or coronary heart disease (CHD). On the other hand a large number of studies has reported a reduction of fatal and non-fatal CHD events as a function of the intake of complex carbohydrates—respectively ‘dietary fiber’ or selected fiber-rich food (e.g., whole grain cereals). It seems that eating too much ‘fast’ carbohydrate [i.e., carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI)] may have deleterious long-term consequences. Indeed the last decades have shown that a low fat (and consecutively high carbohydrate) diet alone is not the best strategy to combat modern diseases including atherosclerosis. Quantity and quality issues in carbohydrate nutrient content are as important as they are for fat. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that for cardiovascular disease prevention a high sugar intake should be avoided. There is growing evidence of the high impact of dietary fiber and foods with a low GI on single risk factors (e.g., lipid pattern, diabetes, inflammation, endothelial function etc.) as well as also the development of the endpoints of atherosclerosis especially CHD.

Keywords

Carbohydrates Dietary fiber Glucose Fructose Glycemic index Obesity Metabolic syndrome Diabetes mellitus