The effects of Mediterranean diets with low or high glycemic index on plasma glucose and insulin profiles are different in adult men and women: Data from MEDGI-Carb randomized clinical trial
Journal article, 2023

Background & aims: Recent evidence suggests that the ability to regulate glucose and insulin homeostasis is different in men and women. Against this background, it has been hypothesized that the impact on daily plasma glucose and insulin profiles of the glycemic index (GI) of the habitual diet may differ according to sex. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether 8-h average plasma glucose and insulin profiles during a low- or a high-GI diet in individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes are influenced by sex. Methods: We conducted a randomized, controlled, parallel group dietary intervention, comparing high-versus low-GI diets in a multi-national (Italy, Sweden, and the United States) sample of 156 adults at risk for type 2 diabetes. For 12 weeks, 82 vs 74 participants consumed either a low-GI or high-GI Mediterranean diet, respectively. The two experimental diets contained the same quantity of available carbohydrate (270 g/d) and fiber (35 g/d) and the same foods and beverages, except for the major sources of starch that was specific to the low-GI and high-GI groups (pasta, brown rice, flatbread, all bran, and wheat bread plus rye and seeds, vs jasmine rice, potato, couscous, wholegrain bread, and rusks). At baseline and after the intervention plasma glucose and insulin profiles were evaluated for 8 h in the two intervention groups – separately for men and women – with both breakfast and lunch resembling food choices of the assigned diet. Results: One hundred fifty-six adults (82 women, 74 men) with at least two traits of the metabolic syndrome completed the intervention. In women, the high-GI induced significantly higher (23%, p < 0.05) 8-h average plasma glucose concentrations in comparison to the low-GI diet already on the first day of the intervention; the difference increased up to 37% (p < 0.05) after 12 weeks of diet. Conversely, there were no significant differences between the two diets in men. These results were confirmed by the two-way analysis of variance showing a statistically significant interaction between the effects of sex and diet on the glucose profile after breakfast and lunch (F = 7.887, p = 0.006). Conclusion: The results of our intervention show that women, compared to men, are more sensitive to the metabolic effects of the dietary GI. This has a strong clinical and scientific relevance and, if confirmed in further studies, it might have important implications for dietary strategies for diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention in the context of personalized nutrition.

Glucose response

Insulin response

Glycemic index

Type 2 diabetes prevention


Marilena Vitale

University of Naples Federico II

Giuseppina Costabile

University of Naples Federico II

Robert E. Bergia

College of Health and Human Sciences

Thérése Hjorth

Chalmers, Life Sciences, Food and Nutrition Science

Wayne W. Campbell

College of Health and Human Sciences

Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Life Sciences, Food and Nutrition Science

Gabriele Riccardi

University of Naples Federico II

Rosalba Giacco

Consiglo Nazionale Delle Richerche

University of Naples Federico II

Clinical Nutrition

0261-5614 (ISSN) 15321983 (eISSN)

Vol. 42 10 2022-2028

Subject Categories

Endocrinology and Diabetes

Nutrition and Dietetics





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9/5/2023 1