Refined grains may not increase heart disease risk, study finds

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A new study from Arizona State University challenges the commonly held belief that high intakes of refined grains, such as white flour, white rice, and white bread, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

This research indicates that the consumption of these grains does not raise the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.

Questioning the Western Diet Paradigm

These findings call for a reconsideration of the Western dietary pattern’s role in future dietary recommendations.

While refined grains are typically included in the Western diet, which also comprises red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, French fries, and high-fat dairy products, the study suggests that these grains do not contribute to the higher CVD risk associated with this dietary pattern.

Instead, it appears that the actual culprits contributing to the higher CVD risk are foods like red and processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Details of the Study

The study, led by Dr. Glenn Gaesser and published in Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, involved an analysis of data from 17 prospective studies, encompassing 877,462 participants.

The focus varied across the studies; some concentrated on staple grain foods like bread, cereal, pasta, and white rice, while others included both staple and indulgent grain foods like cakes, cookies, doughnuts, brownies, muffins, and pastries.

Despite the varied focus, the study found no association between the intake of refined grains and increased CVD risk.

Refined grains are grains that have undergone milling, a process that removes the bran and germ to increase the grain’s shelf life.

This process does remove some of the original fiber and B vitamins from the food, but these are often enriched with additional B vitamins and iron.

Implications for Future Dietary Guidelines

The researchers hope these new results will be taken into account when formulating future dietary guidelines for Americans.

They argue that while it’s essential to promote the consumption of whole-grain foods, this doesn’t have to be at the expense of refined-grain foods.

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