Carb-Loadings' Detrimental Impact on Heart Health

Health Professional

Carbohydrate loading (aka carb-loading) is often used by athletes to maximize the amount of fuel stored in muscle so the energy needed is readily available for use during workouts or competitions. But do the risks of this practice outweigh the benefits carb-loading can bring?

Researchers from Vanderbilt and the University of Alabama at Birmingham studied the impact of an acute carbohydrate load in the form of a 264-calorie shake on the production of the hormone atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). ANP works in the body to eliminate excess salt and lower blood pressure. Obesity contributes to less ANP production. The study included 33 individuals with normal blood pressure levels. Prior to completing the study, participants followed a standard diet for a couple days to prevent dietary variability from impacting results. Their blood levels of ANP were then analyzed for twenty-four hours after consuming the 264 calorie carbohydrate shake. For reference, there are 4 calories per 1 gram of carbohydrate. A 264 calorie shake equals 66 grams of carbohydrates.

Researchers found that carb-loading suppressed levels of ANP in circulating blood. They found a 27% decrease in ANP over a period of several hours after consuming the high carbohydrate shake.

When you consume a shake high in carbohydrates, blood glucose levels rise. The body releases insulin from the pancreas to move this excess glucose into fat cells for storage and return blood glucose levels to normal. Researchers note this increase in glucose appears to be tied directly to the drop in ANP levels via decreased production of miR-425 molecules. The miR-425 molecules appear to inhibit the production of ANP.

If you are obese, you are already producing less than the desired level of ANP. Add in high-carb shakes and your ANP levels drop that much more.

It’s important to note that this study only included 33 participants. More research is needed to fully understand the carbohydrate impact on ANP levels. For example, we don’t know if athletes have the same ANP response when carb-loading.

Use this information to take action on what you already know – foods high in sugar and low in nutrients should not be a regular part of a heart healthy diet.

For guidance on steps you can take to lower blood pressure, access the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure at

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Lisa Nelson is a dietitian/nutritionist with a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol and heart disease. She guides clients to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels through practical diet and lifestyle changes. Learn more and sign up to receive How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits at