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Unsubstantiated Health Beliefs Lead People to Avoid Gluten Unnecessarily

Following a gluten-free diet is required for those with celiac disease or medically diagnosed gluten sensitivities. Because gluten-free foods tend to be less nutritious and may raise the risk of nutrient deficiencies, researchers wanted to know what motivates people to avoid gluten when it is not medically necessary. In this study, 2,982 adults in the US without celiac disease were surveyed about their beliefs regarding gluten-free diets. Compared with people who eat gluten, people without celiac disease who avoid gluten are more likely to believe medically unsubstantiated claims (that gluten-free diets are more nutritious and can improve acne).  
Appetite. 2021 Jan 1; 156:104958. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2020.104958 (Arslain K et al.)

Switching to Whole Grains Can Improve Cholesterol, Blood Sugar Control, and Inflammation

Randomized controlled trials are the “gold standard” of nutrition research as they can be used to establish cause and effect. In this article, researchers analyzed more than 20 randomized controlled trials to see how replacing refined grains with whole grains can impact health. They found that for adults both with and without risk factors of heart disease, substituting whole grains for refined can improve total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar control), and C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation). 
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020 Nov;120(11):1859-1883.e31. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2020.06.021. (Marshall S et al.)

Modern Wheat Does NOT Have More Gluten than Ancient Wheat

Over the past centuries, the yield production of wheat has dramatically increased around the globe, leaving some to wonder how the quality and gluten content of modern wheat compares to ancient varieties. This research analyzed more than 200 wheat lines from the 18th century through modern times. The results showed that modern breeds of wheat tend to have slightly higher starch and fiber levels, and lower protein content as well as lower levels of some minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium). In fact, the decreased gliadin: glutenin ratio in modern wheat indicates a decrease in celiac disease antigens in modern wheat, while the lower protein content indicates lower levels of gluten.
Nutrition Bulletin. 2020 Sept. doi:10.1111/nbu.12461. (Shewry PR et al.)

 

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.)

Australians Recognize Whole Grains as Healthy, But Still Falling Short on Recommendations

To better understand why people are or are not eating whole grains, researchers surveyed 735 Australian (mostly female) adults about their eating habits and their understanding of whole grains. The scientists found that more than three-quarters of the participants were not eating enough whole grains, less than half of the participants correctly identified whole grains, and only 9% correctly identified how many servings of whole grains are recommended for their age and gender. However, the majority of the participants understood that whole grains do have health benefits, and they reported education, cost, and taste as the main factors that contribute to their choice of whole gains. 
Nutrients. 2020 July 22, 12(8), 2170; doi: 10.3390/nu12082170 (Foster S 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.)

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