Eating Whole Grains Pays Off
Study Shows They May Lower Risk for the Metabolic Syndrome
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 19, 2004 -- New research shows that when it comes to type
2 diabetes, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Tufts University
researchers report that eating whole-grain foods, especially fiber-rich
cereals, appears to improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of the
Whole-grain foods have already been found to help protect
against heart disease and certain cancers, and the newly published study is one
of several that indicates there is a protective role for whole grains against a
constellation of major risk factors that lead to metabolic syndrome -- a risk
factor for cardiovascular disease and the development of type 2 diabetes.
"I think people understand the importance of eating fruits
and vegetables, but when it comes to whole grains the message has pretty much
been lost," researcher Nicola M. McKeown, PhD, tells WebMD. "That is in
part because consumers don't really understand what whole-grain foods
At Least Three Servings a Day
McKeown and colleagues examined the association between eating
different types of dietary carbohydrates on a group of health conditions linked
to an increase risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, known
collectively as the metabolic syndrome.
It is estimated that the syndrome, which includes disturbed
glucose metabolism, abnormal blood cholesterol, central body fat distribution,
and high blood pressure, affects 20%-25% of adults in the U.S. It is also said
that diet plays a role in development of the syndrome, which places individuals
at risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that greater consumption of whole-grain,
cereal fiber, and diets with lower glycemic index were associated with better
insulin sensitivity and were less likely to be affected by insulin resistant or
the metabolic syndrome. Other sources of carbohydrates, including refined
grains, appeared to neither protect against nor promote the metabolic
Diets with a high glycemic index cause a sudden and drastic
jump in blood sugar levels. With low-glycemic diets blood sugar rise more
gradually. As a general rule, the same low-fat, high-fiber fare -- fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains and legumes -- often advised to manage weight and
help prevent diabetes and other health conditions, have a low glycemic index.
Conversely, starchy and processed foods such as potatoes, breads, and cereals
usually have a high glycemic index.
The investigation included 2,834 people participating in the
ongoing Framingham health study. The findings are reported in the February
issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
Better Eat Your Wheaties?
McKeown says most Americans eat far fewer than three servings
of whole grains a day. She suggests substituting brown rice for white rice and
whole-wheat pasta for regular to help up your daily intake.
But she adds that spotting whole-grain products in the grocery
store is not always easy.