by Marion Nestle
Dec 26 2008

Do whole grains do any good?

At the request (and expense) of Kellogg’s, the Life Science Research Organization convened an expert panel to evaluate studies linking consumption of whole grains – as defined by FDA – to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  Using the FDA’s definition, the panel judged the studies insufficient to support a claim that whole grains reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.  The FDA defines whole grains as whole: grains that are ground, cracked, or flaked but include all the parts in their original proportions.  When the panel expanded the definition of whole grains to include supplements of bran, germ, or fiber, the results came out better.   Supplements work better than the real thing!  Kellogg’s must be pleased with the results of its investment.

  • tmana

    Years ago, when the “oat bran” craze was at its peak, the belief was that bran had important qualities for clearing arterial plaque. (I think this was before we learned the different actions of soluble and insoluble fibers?) If there is any truth to that belief, then it is conceiveable that a diet with additional bran could have some cardioprotective effect.

    Anecdotally, I find that a number of people with diabetes (including myself) have more pronounced changes in blood sugar levels (area under curve) to grains in general than to fruits and other sources of carbohydrate. While there is often some difference observed between whole grains and refined grains (those few of us Type 2s who have managed to get off oral medications and write about it all eschew refined grains), grain consumption in general is something we have to watch carefully. While this was not the issue under study, a recent review in Diabetes in Control suggests that blood glucose excursions are responsible for both long-term complications of diabetes (including cardiovascular disease).

    To add to that: the anecdotal connections between Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease have been confirmed in a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Persons with celiac disease need to avoid gluten, which means avoiding most grains regardless of their state of “wholeness”.

    This would suggest to me that grain consumption of any variety or proportion may need to be restricted (or at least more closely monitored) in the presence of diabetes mellitus.

  • “grain consumption of any variety or proportion may need to be restricted (or at least more closely monitored)”

    If we picture the Food Guide Pyramid and how grains are on the bottom it does seem pretty silly. If we switched the two grain & vegetable labels and the base our diet is vegetables we would be much better off!

  • I am not sure how to feel about this but I am suspicious.