22 Feb 2011, But What About Healthy Whole Grains?

Posted: February 21, 2011 by House of Bross in Nutrition
Tags: , , , , , ,

whole wheat flour, stone-ground flour, unbleached flour, all-purpose flour, graham flour, self-rising flour unbromated flour, cake flour, pastry flour, bread flour...

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But What About Healthy Whole Grains?
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Someone really asked me this in response to yesterday’s post. Where to begin.
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Luckily, Denise Minger tackled this very issue just last week here on Mark’s Daily Apple she provides an analysis of recent studies linking high fiber and whole grain intake with better health. Mark introduces his readers to Denise, explaining: “when it comes to parsing the scientific studies, very few people have the combination of skills, understanding of the scientific method and probability, AND the willingness to dig deep into the minutiae to get to the essence of a study. Denise is one of those rare people.” I became a loyal fan the day Denise soundly debunked Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s famous China Study (which every vegetarian in the world used to reference as proof of the perils of meat consumption).
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Please go to Mark’s Daily Apple and read Denise’s analysis for yourself – (she uncovers a shipfull of confounding variables and interpretive errors of studies contrasting the health of whole grain versus refined grain consumption). Here is a telling excerpt:

…eating more whole grains (and grain fiber) inevitably goes hand-in-hand with eating fewer refined grains. And this is precisely what makes grain studies so squirmy and misleading: Measuring the effects of whole grains indirectly captures the effects of refined grains, too, and they’re hard to untangle.
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A number of Healthy Whole Grain studies actually show that limiting refined grains is just as beneficial – if not more so – than increasing whole grain intake. For example, take a gander at this 2005 study analyzing the grain-noshing habits of over 800 men and women. As we might expect, the folks eating the most whole grains fared the best, while those eating the most refined grains had higher risk markers for disease. No news there…
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But what the researchers don’t discuss is the intriguing trend that surfaced in one of their tables (viewable here). If we compare the folks who ate the most whole grains (at least 143 grams per day) with those who ate the least refined grains (less than 125 grams per day), the health perks are nearly identical – with the high-whole-grain group actually coming out less favorably in some cases. Compared to those who ate the least amount of refined grains, the abundant-whole-grain group spawned a greater percentage of folks with high triglycerides, low HDL, high LDL, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. Yowza!
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So what does this pattern tell us? For one, that scooting the refined grains off your plate may be more health-protective than eating more whole ones. And that, indeed, the alleged health benefits of whole grains could simply be due to eating less of their refined counterparts.
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Of course, this isn’t the only study to unearth this sort of trend. If you’re in a Nerd Safari mood, hop over to this study to read about the lack of benefit whole grains have on inflammation and insulin sensitivity, or this study (PDF) to read about how a diet supplemented with wheat bran caused a slight rise in triglycerides and oxidized LDL. When you do a some digging, you’ll see the evidence supporting Healthy Whole Grains is surprisingly wobbly.

There’s so much more out there substantiating the case against grains. Nearly every one of the scientists and doctors I’ve linked on the right has at least one blog entry which disses grain consumption: there’s plenty of research which justifies their contempt, and not just in the nutritional science field.
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Finding real, useful data in nutritional research today is exceedingly difficult. Most studies are empirical – meaning correlative, meaning causation is impossible to prove. Much of nutritional research is funded by industry meaning there’s a strong potential for bias. Compounding both issues, the media often jumps on research headlines failing to mention the massive potential for the data’s meaninglessness. The public is left with conflicting messages, and when pressed will regurgitate the “everything in moderation” theory which for the vast majority of them serves merely as an excuse not to take charge of their health. As a result, they continue to eat an assortment of nutritionally vacant non-real food items (but all with grandiose health claims on the packaging) wondering why they get sick each week and fatter every year.
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One of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my health was personally trying a strict paleo diet for 30 days. It was only afterward that I started researching and became evangelistically committed – there is an enormous amount of evidence backing the health of diets which consist simply of meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. No grains. Real food. If you are seeking a change, whether in body composition or health, please consider a very short personal trial.

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Comments
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