Whole grain consumption linked to reduced risk factors for heart disease

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New research is examining the link between whole grain consumption and warning signs of cardiovascular disease. Nadine Greeff / Stocksy
  • Researchers have shown that people who eat more whole grains have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • However, there is less research on the effect of consuming whole grains on the warning signs of CVD.
  • The present study found an association between people who ate more whole grains and improved measures of these warning signs.
  • Researchers have also found an association between people who eat more refined grains and worsened measures of the warning signs of CVD.

Researchers have shown an association between whole grain consumption and improved measures of CVD risk factors.

In the search, which appears in the Nutrition Journal, researchers also found an association between consumption of more refined grains and the worst measures of some of these risk factors.

The results provide further evidence that increased consumption of whole grains has health benefits.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), CVD “is the leading cause of death in the world”. In 2019, nearly 18 million people died from cardiovascular disease, the vast majority from stroke or heart attack.

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Note that in the United States, a person dies from cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds, which is 1 in 4 deaths.

To prevent CVD, the CDC advises a person to avoid smoking, to avoid being overweight and obese, and to stay physically active. The CDC also suggests that a person should eat as healthy a diet as possible.

A 2015 review indicated that a healthier diet, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, vegetable oil and poultry, could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by a third.

More specifically, the researchers to have found significant evidence of the beneficial effects of eating more whole grains. This reduces the risk of CVD and death from cancer, respiratory disease, infectious disease and all-cause mortality.

However, there has been less research on the relationship between eating whole grains and the warning signs of CVD.

These early signs include waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting plasma high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels or “good” cholesterol, plasma triglycerides and blood sugar.

Researchers conducted this study to explore the association between eating whole grains and the warning signs of CVD.

The researchers drew on data from the Framingham Cardiac Study, a long-term study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which began in 1948. The researchers used data from the Offspring cohort of the study, which began in 1971 and ended in 2104.

Approximately every 4 years, participants in the offspring cohort gave researchers their medical history and underwent a standard physical exam. In the fifth round of examinations, starting in 1991, participants also provided information about their diet.

The researchers excluded participants with diabetes initially and those who did not provide dietary information in two or more consecutive exams. This left a sample of 3,121 people.

Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire, allowing researchers to determine how much whole grains they ate.

The researchers found that the participants who consumed the least whole grains had an average increase of 1 inch (in) in their waistlines between their 4-year exams.

In contrast, those participants who consumed the most whole grains only increased their waistlines on average by 0.5 inches.

Participants who consumed the fewest whole grains had more significant increases in systolic blood pressure and blood sugar than participants who consumed the most whole grains, regardless of waist circumference.

According to Dr. Nicola McKeown, lead author and study correspondent, and scientist on the nutritional epidemiology team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, MA, “our results suggest that eating whole-grain foods as a part of a healthy diet offers health benefits beyond just helping us lose or maintain weight as we age.

“In fact, this data suggests that people who eat more whole grains are better able to maintain their blood sugar and blood pressure over time. Managing these risk factors as we age can help protect against heart disease. “

According to Dr. Caleigh Sawicki, who contributed to the study as part of his doctoral dissertation at Tufts, there are many reasons why whole grains can be beneficial for a person’s cardiovascular health.

“The presence of dietary fiber in whole grains can be satiating, and magnesium, potassium and antioxidants can help lower blood pressure. Soluble fiber, in particular, can have a beneficial effect on blood sugar spikes after meals, ”said Dr. Sawicki.

Dr Sawicki thinks there needs to be more research to understand precisely why whole grains are beneficial – and how to get people to eat more of them.

“Our research contributes to the large amount of observational data to show that higher consumption of whole grains is linked to better health. But there is still a lot we don’t know about the mechanisms behind how whole grains can influence health, ”said Dr. Sawicki.

“It could be whole grain fiber, or it could be one of the many other nutrients or polyphenols – or all of them working together!”

“Another big challenge is, of course, getting people to switch from refined foods to whole grain foods. More research is needed to fully understand the barrier to consuming more whole grain foods. “

According to Dr. McKeown, increasing whole grains and reducing refined grains is especially important for an American population.

“The average American consumes about five servings of refined grains per day, far more than recommended, so it’s important to think about ways to replace refined grains with whole grains throughout the day. “

“For example, you might consider a bowl of whole grain cereal instead of a white flour bagel for breakfast and replace snacks, entrees and side dishes made from refined grains with options whole grain. “

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

For Dr. McKeown, official health advice must continue to promote the benefits of consuming more whole grains in the diet.

“In the United States, the current recommendation is to make half of your grain intake whole grain (so three or more servings per day), and in fact, since 2005, there has been a dietary recommendation for whole grains.

“Perhaps as dietary advice is developed there needs to be more emphasis on replacing refined grains with whole grains and better communication about the unique nutritional properties of different types of whole grains,” said said Dr McKeown. Medical News Today.

People also need to be made aware of the variety of whole grains available, according to Dr. McKeown.

“If you ask a layman to make a list of all the types of fruits or vegetables he can eat, you will get over a dozen, I’m sure, whether the person eats them or not!” “

“But I’m pretty sure it would be a challenge for people to identify whole grain foods beyond bread, pasta and breakfast cereals. So there is still a fair amount of consumer education to be done on whole grains, ”noted Dr. McKeown.

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Keith Johnson

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