Industry-funded review of the week: Refined grains
The review: Do Refined Grains Have a Place in a Healthy Dietary Pattern: Perspectives from an Expert Panel Consensus Meeting . Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 4, Issue 10, October 2020, nzaa125.
Method: “A scientific expert panel was convened to review published data since the release of 2015 dietary guidance in defined areas of grain research, which included nutrient intakes, diet quality, enrichment/fortification, and associations with weight-related outcomes.
1) whole grains and refined grains can make meaningful nutrient contributions to dietary patterns,
2) whole and refined grain foods contribute nutrient density,
3) fortification and enrichment of grains remain vital in delivering nutrient adequacy in the American diet,
4) there is inconclusive scientific evidence that refined grain foods are linked to overweight and obesity, and
5) gaps exist in the scientific literature with regard to grain foods and health.“
Supported by the Grain Foods Foundation. The sponsors (Grain Foods Foundation) had no role in the design of the study or in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of the data.
Author disclosures: YP, as President of Nutritional Strategies, provides food, nutrition, and regulatory affairs consulting services for food and beverage companies and food-related associations and collaborates with VLF on NHANES analyses. VLF, as Senior Vice President of Nutrition Impact, provides food and nutrition consulting services for food and beverage companies. VLF also conducts analyses of NHANES data for members of the food industry. JLS, RC, JTB, DH, and GAG all received an honorarium and travel expenses in the current scientific collaboration.
Comment: The Grain Foods Foundation commissioned the panel and paid the panel participants for their service and travel. For the authors, this was a paid gig. The Foundation got what it paid for. About results #1, 2, and 5, there can be no argument. #1 and #2 are obvious and did not require a scientific panel to come to those conclusions: even refined grains have nutritional value, not least because they are fortified with several key nutrients. That’s why these authors consider fortification and enrichment to be “vital.”
What this really is about is to demonstrat that refined grains are healthy and do no harm (#4). But refined grains are major components of ultra-processed foods, which cause people who eat them to take in more calories than they recognize or need (see Hall et al, 2019) and are strongly associated with higher levels of obesity, chronic disease, and mortality. Despite dozens of studies consistently linking ultra-processed foods to these conditions, this industry-sponsored panel says the evidence is inconclusive.
The underlying purpose of this study, therefore, is to cast doubt on the connection between refined grains, ultra-processed foods, and weight gain.
With independently funded research, even by biased researchers, the underlying purpose is usually explicit.
–Thanks to Lisa Young for alerting me to this one.