Health experts have long urged people to swap their processed white grains for the whole-grain variety, and new research suggests that advice might help you live longer.
Researchers found that people who ate three or more servings of whole grains a day had a 20% reduced risk of premature death during the study period, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains.
“The higher the whole grain intake, the lower the death rate, especially deaths from cardiovascular disease,” said study author Dr. Qi Sun. He is an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Whole grains are so named because they contain the entire grain kernel, including bran (outer husk), germ (nutrient-rich core) and endosperm (middle layer). Whole-grain foods include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice and whole cornmeal.
When grains are refined, they have been milled and that process removes the bran and germ, as well as fiber, iron and many of the B vitamins. White breads, white rice and white flour are all refined grains, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Sun and his colleagues reviewed the findings of 12 published studies as well as data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The studies included nearly 800,000 men and women. The study populations were from the United States, the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries. The studies covered 1971 to 2010. Over the study periods, there were almost 98,000 deaths recorded.
Sun said many possibilities can help explain why whole-grain consumption seemed to affect death risk. Whole grains are high in fiber, so they can help regulate blood sugar and improve blood cholesterol levels, which can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber also makes you feel full longer, so you may eat fewer calories, maintain a healthy weight, and lower heart risk, he added.
Based on the study findings, Sun said that low-carbohydrate diets that neglect the health benefits of whole grains “should be adopted with caution,” due to a possible higher risk of heart disease.
So how can you be sure the foods you’re eating actually are whole-grain? Foods that list “whole” before the first ingredient on the ingredient list are whole-grain foods, the USDA says.
The study was published June 13 in Circulation.
Certainly whole-grain foods are better for you than refined grains (white junk), but are they really more beneficial than no grains? I don’t believe so and this study certainly doesn’t show that. The study identified whole-grain intake, not refined grain intake. It’s limiting or eliminating the refined foods that reaps health benefits.
I also disagree with the statement about so called “low carb diets”. Typically, past the induction phase they are very high in complex carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables), just low in simple, refined carbohydrates.
The truth is we can feed the world with grains as they are cheap to produce. However, they lose most of their benefit, beyond calories, when refined. But fruits, vegetables and clean animal protein are healthier food sources.
The Bottom Line:
If you are going to eat a grain, make it a whole-grain. However, don’t believe for a minute that it is “healthy”. It is just a heathier choice than a refined grain. Finally, just because it says the word “whole” prior to the first ingredient, doesn’t make that food a whole grain. Look at all the ingredients. You will often find white flour, refined oats, or other refined grains added to “whole-grain foods”. That definition is from the USDA is a loop hole that allows food companies to add refined foods to our diet and still claim it’s “whole”.
Source: June 13, 2016 National Institutes of Health