Whole grains reduce waist size, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol

A study in The Journal of Nutrition found that older adults who consumed at least three servings of whole grains every day had a reduced waist size, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar compared with those who eat less than one-half serving a day. 

The researchers found that whole grain intake was associated with:

  • smaller increases in waist circumference,
  • lower fasting glucose concentration,
  • lower systolic blood pressure,
  • greater increases in HDL (healthy) cholesterol, and
  • declines in potentially lethal triglyceride concentrations.

The study concluded:

Among middle- to older-age adults, replacing RG [refined grains] with WG [whole grains] may be an effective dietary modification to attenuate abdominal adiposity, dyslipidemia, and hyperglycemia over time, thereby reducing the risk of cardiometabolic diseases.

United Press International reports that study co-author Nicola McKeown said in a press release, “Our findings suggest that eating whole-grain foods as part of a healthy diet delivers health benefits beyond just helping us lose or maintain weight as we age,”

“Managing these risk factors as we age may help to protect against heart disease,” said McKeown, a scientist on the Nutritional Epidemiology Team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.

Dietary Guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend three or more servings of whole grains daily.

An example of a serving is one slice of whole-grain bread, a half-cup of rolled oats cereal, or a half-cup of brown rice, according to the guidelines.

The difference in health benefits between whole and refined, or processed, grains may occur because whole grains are less processed than refined grains, the researchers said.

Whole grains have a fiber-rich outer layer and an inner germ layer packed with B vitamins, antioxidants, and small amounts of healthy fats, but as they are processed, the nutrient-dense components in refined grains are removed.

The most common source of whole-grain intake among participants was whole-wheat bread and ready-to-eat whole-grain breakfast cereals, while most of the refined grains consumed by study participants came mostly from pasta and white bread, according to the researchers.

“The average American consumes about five servings of refined grains daily, much more than is recommended, so it’s important to think about ways to replace refined grains with whole grains throughout your day,” McKeown said.

“Small incremental changes in your diet to increase whole-grain intake will make a difference over time,” she said.


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