New research suggests that women who eat high levels of carbohydrates run double the risk of heart problems compared with those eating the least.

The diets of 15,000 men and 32,000 women were examined, and researchers calculated the total consumption of carbohydrates. After eight years of follow-up, 158 women and 305 men developed coronary heart disease.

The study found the danger lies in refined carbohydrates which often have a high Glycaemic Index (GI) score. The GI rates how quickly glucose is released into the bloodstream after eating, with a ranking from 0 to 100. High GI foods cause a surge in blood sugar.

Around 25 percent of women eating the most carbohydrates had twice the risk of heart disease as the quarter eating the least, reports

Sabina Sieri of Fondazinoe IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori said: A high consumption of carbohydrates from high glycaemic index foods, rather than the overall quantity of carbohydrates consumed, appears to influence the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

There was no link with heart disease in men between carbohydrate intake, or the GI content of the diet. This is possibly because the harmful effects on blood fat levels are stronger risk factors in women than men.

The study appears in a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.