Do whole grains help you live longer and healthier?

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wheat Do whole grains help you live longer and healthier? Are grains good or bad for us? If you visit to the grocery store, there is a growing interest in avoiding breads of all types (although, many of us still love pizza). While some people are either gluten intolerant or gluten allergic, a while back, Consumer Reports had a wonderful article about the truths and myths behind gluten avoidance. Despite their efforts, many people, including me have markedly reduced our intake of breads and other whites that have become dietary pariahs, and increased the sales of gluten-free foods. While Wonder Bread was awful for us, there are many wheat-based products that are good for those who do not have problems with gluten intolerance. Many of these are whole grain breads which are much better for us nutritionally and some recent information has shown that if we consume more whole grains, we will likely live longer and feel better. While you will pay more for foods with better nutritional content, you will also have to eat less to satisfy your body's nutritional needs as well. Part of the problem with consuming gluten and many of the whites (bleached wheat, white rice, sugar, pasta and white potatoes for example) is that these foods promote inflammation in the body, which may be the real risk factor for circulatory and heart attack concerns, rather than dietary cholesterol. They also cause problems with blood sugar since these non-complex carbohydrates are converted to sugar easily and may lead us on the road to diseases such as diabetes and obesity. What should you eat? Generally, more dark leafy vegetables, salads, preferably organically farmed which are shown to have better nutritional content than those which are grown with traditional pesticides. GMO foods are less preferable since we lack an understanding of their effects on us (if there are any undesirable effects). Nuts and grains are great sources of fiber and protein. Some breads that can be found at stores such as Trader Joes or Costco are high in whole grain content and are excellent sources of nutrition in your diet. Check out the latest information regarding whole grains which creates a great argument for why we all need to have these foods as part of our diets.

A research article published in BMC Medicine indicates that whole grain and cereal fiber intake is associated with reduced risk of total and cause-specific mortality. Those with the highest cereal fiber intake have lower mortality risk providing evidence for the benefits of whole grain in the diet. In this guest blog, Dagfinn Aune from Norwegian University of Science and Technology discusses the findings in light of the literature and the public health implications.

Whole and refined grains and disease

Interest in the health effects of grain consumption, and particularly whole grains, is growing. Whole grains contain the germ, bran, and endosperm, and contrast to refined grains which have the germ and bran removed during the milling process.

Much of the nutrient content in grains is contained in the germ and bran and for this reason the nutrient content of refined grains is between 60-80% lower than that of whole grains.

Previous epidemiological studies have suggested a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and all-cause mortality with a higher whole grain intake, while intake of refined grains has shown no benefit in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes or mortality.

NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study findings

A published article in BMC Medicine by Huang and colleagues investigated the association between the intake of whole grains and cereal fiber and the risk of total and cause-specific mortality based on participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.

During 14 years of follow-up, 46,067 deaths were documented among 367,442 participants who were free from cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes or end-stage renal disease at baseline.

The authors found a reduced risk of mortality from all causes, from cardiovascular disease to cancer, for those who had the highest intake of whole-grain versus the lowest (1.20 ounces versus 0.13 ounces per 1000 kcal/day, which amounts to 2.2 and 0.25 servings per day on an 1800 kcal/day diet, respectively).

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