SEARCH HEALTH STUDIES

Eating More Whole Grains Linked with Substantial Savings in Healthcare Costs

In this study, researchers calculated the reduced risk of heart disease associated with each serving of whole grain consumed. They were then able to model various scenarios of increasing whole grain consumption as a proportion of total grains, getting closer and closer to the recommended levels outlined in the US Dietary Guidelines. They found that if whole grain intake was increased to meet recommended levels (an increase of 2.24 servings of whole grain per day), the estimated direct medical cost savings from reduced risk of heart disease in the US was $21.9 billion annually. Further, they found that even small increases in whole grain intake can translate to substantial cost savings. A modest increase of just 0.25 servings of whole grains per day was associated with a savings of $2.4 billion annually.
Nutrients. 2020 Aug 3;12(8):E2323. doi: 10.3390/nu12082323. (Murphy MM et al.) 

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

In a large study of nearly 200,000 US adults, those eating whole grains most frequently had a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes across the approximately 30-year study period than those rarely or never eating whole grains, even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors. When looking at specific whole grain foods, common foods like whole grain breakfast cereal, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and brown rice were all linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The exception was popcorn, which was linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes when eaten more than once per day, perhaps due to its association with butter sauces or sugary flavorings.
BMJ. 2020 Jul 8;370:m2206. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2206. (Hu Y et al.)

3rd Party Labeling Like the WG Stamp Helps Steer Consumers Towards Quality Carbohydrate Foods

Carbohydrates are part of a balanced diet, but not all carbohydrates are created equal. In this review, researchers analyzed different labeling strategies that help consumers identify healthy carbohydrate foods when shopping. They identified quality carbohydrates are identified as those that are high in fiber, have high levels of whole grains, or have a low glycemic index or glycemic response. The Whole Grain Stamp was one of many voluntary labeling programs highlighted by the authors as a way to help consumers find quality carbohydrate foods. The authors conclude that it is important for governments to enable these types of 3rd party labeling systems to help steer consumers towards healthier carbohydrate choices.
Nutrients. 2020 Jun 9;12(6):1725. doi:10.3390/nu12061725 (Marinangeli, CPF et al.)

Less Processed Whole Grain Foods Linked with Better Blood Sugar Control in People with Diabetes

Replacing refined grains (like white bread or white rice) with whole grains (like whole grain bread or brown rice) is a simple swap that can yield measurable health benefits. But what if you are already eating whole grains and are ready to take the next step? In this study, researchers randomly assigned 63 adults in New Zealand with type 2 diabetes to a diet with either intact, minimally processed grain foods (whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread made with coarse whole grains) or more processed, finely milled whole grains (instant oats, brown rice pasta, whole grain bread made of finely milled flour). Those in the less processed group had a significantly lower post-meal blood sugar response and lower blood sugar variability throughout the day, indicating better blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2020 May; dc200263. doi:10.2337/dc20-0263.(Åberg S et al.)

Whole Wheat Flour Has More Minerals, Antioxidants than Refined

Researchers analyzed 168 types of wheat flour purchased throughout the UK and Germany to compare their nutritional profiles. While spelt and organic wheat varieties had significantly higher levels of antioxidants and minerals than their conventional/modern counterparts, a far greater impact on nutrition was observed when comparing whole grain wheat to refined wheat. Whole grain wheat flours had 2-4.3x higher antioxidant concentrations and activity, 144% more phosphorous, 125% more potassium, and 209% more magnesium than refined wheat flours. The authors conclude that “refining (removal of the bran and germ) (a) has a substantially greater impact on the mineral nutrients and phytochemical concentrations in flour than wheat genetics/species choice (T. aestivum vs T. spelta) and production protocols (organic vs conventional), (b) diminishes the differences in antioxidant activity, and phenolic and mineral concentrations in wheat flour produced with grain from contrasting farming systems and wheat species.”
Food Chem X. 2020 May 4;6:100091. doi: 10.1016/j.fochx.2020.100091. (Wang J et al.)

Greater Exposure to Whole Grains May Help Improve Liking and Acceptance

Many times when people think they don’t like a particular food, what’s really happening is that they aren’t yet familiar enough with it. To see how this theory might apply to whole grains, researchers took 45 people who don’t eat whole grains and randomly assigned half of them to a diet with whole grains (where they were gifted whole grain products to incorporate into meals and snacks) for 6 weeks, while the other half continued eating their normal diet. Those in the whole grain group rated whole grains’ flavor and texture more favorably than they did before, and also expressed more willingness to include whole grains as a regular part of their diet.
Curr Dev Nutr. 2020 Mar 9;4(3):nzaa023. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzaa023. eCollection 2020 Mar. (De Leon A et al.)

Healthy Diet with Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein Foods Linked with Lower Risk of Memory Loss and Heart Disease in Aging

A balanced diet is important to support our bodies and our brains as we age. In a study of 139,096 Australian adults followed for 6 years, those eating the most fruits, vegetables, and protein foods had a lower risk of developing memory loss, while those eating the most fruits and vegetables also had the lowest risk of comorbid heart disease. When looking specifically at adults over 80 years old, those eating the fewest grains had the highest risk of memory loss and comorbid heart disease.
Int J Public Health. 2020 Feb 12. doi: 10.1007/s00038-020-01337-y. Online ahead of print. Xu X et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Insomnia in Post-Menopausal Women

Don’t let a poor diet keep you up at night. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets and insomnia rates of more than 50,000 post-menopausal women. Eating more whole grains, fiber, fruit, and vegetables was linked with lower odds of insomnia. On the other hand, eating more added sugar, starch, refined grains, and a high glycemic index diet (diet of foods that raise your blood sugar quickly) was linked with higher odds of insomnia.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2020 Feb 1;111(2):429-439. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz275. (Gangwisch JE et al.)

People Ate More Whole Grains at Restaurants in 2015/2106 vs 2003/2004

Healthy menu items are seemingly easier to find at restaurants than they were ten years ago, but are people actually eating these dishes? To find out, researchers analyzed the nutritional content of fast-food and full-service restaurant dishes eaten by 35,015 adults between 2003 and 2016. Although the overall diet quality remained poor for both fast-food and full-service restaurant meals eaten by the participants, there are a few promising signs of progress. Notably, whole grains eaten at restaurants increased from 0.22 to 0.49 servings per day in full-service restaurants, and 0.08 to 0.31 servings in fast food restaurants. There were also slight increases in nut/seed/legume intake at fast food restaurants, as well as slight decreases in soda consumption at full-service restaurants and saturated fat and sodium consumption at fast food restaurants. Unfortunately, over this time period, people also at fewer fruits and vegetables at both types of restaurants, and the nutritional disparities between different racial and ethnic demographic groups persisted and, in some cases, worsened.
Journal of Nutrition. 2020 Jan 29. pii: nxz299. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz299. [Epub ahead of print] (Liu J et al.)

When it Comes to Low-Carb vs Low-Fat Diets, Quality is More Important than Quantity

While some headlines focus on the supposed benefits of choosing a low-carb or a low-fat diet, the smarter dietary move is to focus on overall diet quality, and let the numbers fall where they may. In this study, researchers analyzed the food choices of 37,233 US adults, then followed them for years to see if diet impacted risk of death. Neither low-carb nor low-fat diets were linked with death. However, when differentiating between healthy and unhealthy diets, both unhealthy low-carb and low-fat diets were linked with increased mortality risk over the study period, while healthy low-carb and low-fat diets were both linked with lower risk of mortality over the study period. Therefore, it seems that the amount of fat or carbs is less important than the quality of fat or carbs.
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2020 Jan 21. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.6980. [Epub ahead of print] (Shan Z et al.)

Kids with Celiac Disease Tend to Eat Less Fiber, More Saturated Fat on Gluten-Free Diet

Lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity for people with celiac disease. However, extra care must be taken to ensure that a gluten-free diet is nutritionally balanced. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 120 children with celiac disease who had been eating a gluten-free diet for at least 2 years, along with 100 age-and-gender-matched healthy children who didn’t avoid gluten. Those on a gluten-free diet ate significantly more saturated fat (contributing to 12.8% vs 8.8% of total calories) and significantly less fiber (12.6 g vs 15 g) daily than those not on a gluten-free diet.
Nutrients. 2020 Jan 4;12(1). pii: E143. doi: 10.3390/nu12010143.(Lionetti E et al.)

Improving Diet Could Save $301 per Person per Year in Healthcare Costs

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is known to help prevent numerous chronic diseases, so it’s no surprise that eating healthier can reduce healthcare costs, too. In this study, researchers analyzed U.S. eating habits against dietary recommendations, and then calculated the cardiometabolic disease burden (heart diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes) attributable to not meeting specific dietary guidelines. From there, they were able to calculate the costs associated with not meeting specific dietary recommendations. They found that diet-related healthcare costs were $301 per person annually (or $50.4 billion total) for cardiometabolic diseases alone. Specifically, the per-person annual cardiometabolic cost of not eating enough nuts & seeds was $81, seafood omega-3 fats was $76, vegetables and legumes was $60, fruits was $57, and whole grains was $45.
PLoS Medicine. 2019 Dec 17;16(12):e1002981. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002981. eCollection 2019 Dec. (Jardim TV et al.)

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