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Whole Grains Linked with Improvements in Diabetes

Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains are part of the solution, not the problem, when it comes to diabetes. In this study, researchers analyzed 29 randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of nutrition research) to see how whole grains and ancient grains might impact health outcomes in people with diabetes. They found that brown rice significantly improved HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar control over time) and BMI (a measure of weight based on height), that oats significantly improved cholesterol, and that millet significantly improved body weight. However, given the different grains and research methods used, it was difficult for the researchers to draw broad conclusions across the whole group of grains, indicating that more research is needed to understand these effects. 
Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2024 May;34(5):1110-1128. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2024.03.005. Epub 2024 Mar 7. (Magi CE et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Longer Healthspan

Whole grains have long been linked with longevity and are a central part of the diet of many of the world’s longest-lived people. New research, however, suggests that whole grains don’t just add years to life – they may also add life to years, by being linked with a longer healthspan, or the length of time that a person is healthy, not just alive. In this study of more than 48,000 Danish adults, men who ate the most whole grains in midlife lived roughly one year longer without disease compared with men who ate the least whole grains. The authors concluded that “intake of whole grains in mid-life was associated with healthy aging looking 20 years ahead.”
Eur J Nutr. 2024 Mar 7. doi: 10.1007/s00394-024-03357-3. Online ahead of print. (Eriksen AK et al.)

Eating Whole Grains Linked with Slower Cognitive Decline

Good nutrition can help support brain health and healthy aging, and it’s increasingly clear that whole grains are an important part of the equation. In a study of 3,326 older adults (average age 75), those eating three or more servings of whole grains per day had a slower rate of decline in global cognition, perceptual speed, and episodic memory compared to those who ate fewer than one serving per day. These results were statistically significant for the group as a whole and for African American participants (who made up 60% of the study population), but did not quite reach statistical significance for white participants (who made up a smaller proportion of the study population).
Neurology. 2023 Nov 22:10.1212/WNL.0000000000207938. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207938. (Liu X et al.)

Whole Grains Linked with Lower Risk of Weight Gain

Carbohydrate foods from different sources have different impacts on the body, meaning that it is important to choose quality carbohydrates like whole grains. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and weight changes of 136,432 adults for more than 2 decades. Eating more whole grains, fruit, and non starchy vegetables was linked with a lower risk of weight gain, while eating more refined grains and starchy vegetables (peas, corn, potatoes) was linked with a higher risk of weight gain.
BMJ. 2023 Sep 27:382:e073939. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2022-073939. (Wan Y et al.)

School Meals with More Whole Grains Can Prevent 10,600 Deaths and $19.3B in Healthcare Costs

Nutritious school meals can support children’s health in the short term, and new research suggests that these benefits can extend into adulthood as well. In this study, researchers used comparative risk assessment frameworks to estimate the short-term and long-term health impacts of fully aligning the U.S. National School Lunch program with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If all school meals were to fully comply with the Dietary Guidelines, researchers estimate improved BMI and blood pressure in the short term, as well as 10,600 fewer deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in adulthood. These health improvements would save an estimated 355,000 disability-adjusted life-years and an estimated $19.3 billion in medical costs each year. While many aspects of the current and proposed school nutrition standards are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines, stronger school meal standards for whole grains, added sugars, and sodium are needed to be able to fully realize these health benefits.  
Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Jul 18;S0002-9165(23)65959-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.031. (Wang L et al.)

Eating More Whole Grains Linked with Better Mental Health

Whole grain’s protective effect against heart disease and diabetes is well-documented, and because these chronic conditions also relate to risk of brain health and mental health, researchers wanted to examine this relationship directly. In this study, scientists analyzed 23 studies on whole grain intake and risk of cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders and evaluated the strength of the evidence. They found that people who eat more whole grains are more likely to have better mood, depression, and anxiety scores. The evidence on whole grains and cognition was inconclusive, meaning that more research is needed.
Adv Nutr. 2023 Apr 19;S2161-8313(23)00288-0. doi: 10.1016/j.advnut.2023.04.003. (Ross AB et al.)

More Than 1/4 Global Cases of Type 2 Diabetes Attributed to Low Whole Grain Intake

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases around the world, impacting millions of people. In this study, researchers developed risk-assessment models to estimate how much various dietary habits contribute to type 2 diabetes risk in 184 countries around the world. The largest burden (26.1%) of type 2 diabetes was attributed to low whole grain intake. Other factors contributing to high type 2 diabetes burden included high intake of refined rice and wheat (24.6%) and high intake of processed meat (20.3%).
Nat Med. 2023 Apr;29(4):982-995. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02278-8. Epub 2023 Apr 17. (O’Hearn M et al.)

Eating Whole Grains Linked with 28-36% Lower Risk of Dementia

Brain-healthy diets include a variety of healthy ingredients, and researchers wonder if whole grains specifically might be related to dementia risk. In a study of 2,958 adults in the U.S., those eating the most whole grains were 28% less likely to develop all-cause dementia and were 36% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia over the 12-year study period. The researchers note that more research is needed to better understand this relationship.
J Prev Alzheimers Dis. 2023;10(1):133-136. doi: 10.14283/jpad.2022.91. (J Wang et al.)

Dietitians and Nutrition Students Are Knowledgeable About Whole Grains, Can Play Role in Encouraging Greater Whole Grain Intake Among Consumers

In this study, researchers surveyed 348 registered dietitians and 124 nutrition students about whole grain foods. Both groups had high whole grain knowledge and were able to correctly identify whole grain foods. The authors note that exposure to whole grain foods plays a critical role in behavior change, and that “the use of prominent and clear whole-grain labeling should be increased, such as the Whole Grain Stamp.”
Nutrition Today2022 July/Aug;57(4):200-208. (Hicks-Roof K et al.) doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000550

Increasing Whole Grains, Limiting Beef in School Lunches Can Reduce Environmental Impact

Meals served in the National School Lunch Program are developed with nutrition, cost, and youth preferences in mind, with little room or direction to consider environmental impact. Using data from over 2.2 million real-world lunches, researchers at Tufts quantified the environmental footprint of each lunch served to see if they could determine patterns and form recommendations for more sustainable lunches. They found that low impact school lunches had “20% more whole grains, nearly 20 times more nuts and seeds, and four times less animal protein than high impact lunches.” As a result, the authors concluded that “increasing whole grain requirements and providing serving size or frequency limits for beef” are the two most effective recommendations for reducing the environmental impacts of the National School Lunch program. 
Nature. 2022 June 23;3(138). doi: 10.1038/s43247-022-00452-3. (Stern AL et al.)

Whole Grain Public-Private Partnerships Can Increase Whole Grain Intake

Public-private partnerships include collaborations between governments, industry, and/or nonprofits to work towards a common objective, and can be a great strategy to make progress on population-wide goals, such as improving whole grain intake. In this study, researchers examined 3 of the most well-known whole grain public-private partnerships (the Oldways Whole Grains Council in the US, the Danish Whole Grain Partnership, and the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council in Australia) to identify best practices for increasing whole grain intake globally. The study concludes that to successfully improve whole grain intakes in the long-term, public-private partnerships should address environmental sustainability, be incorporated into front-of-pack labeling schemes, and reach out those who eat the least amount of whole grain.
Journal of Cereal Science. 2022 May. doi: 10.1016/j.jcs.2022.103456 (Sluyter C et al.)

Eating More Whole Grains is Linked with Substantial Healthcare Cost Savings

Health economics, the practice of quantifying how much money could be saved by taking certain health promotion measures (such as eating more whole grains) is a growing area of research. In this study, researchers analyzed 4 different models for measuring the health savings of eating more whole grains to identify best practices and inform future research. They found that while results varied from one study to the next, each method identified substantial health savings if people were to make more of their grains whole. The authors recommend that future studies consider realistic behavior changes, which may vary from one country to the next.
Journal of Cereal Science. 2022 May. doi: 10.1016/j.jcs.2022.103455 (Miller KB et al.)​