More support for whole grains for healthy hearts

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

An increased intake of wholegrain products, in combination with a
reduced calorie diet, led to weight loss and cut levels of a
protein associated with heart disease, says a new study.

Fifty obese adults took part in the new study, which showed that levels of C-reactive protein levels (CRP), a protein produced in the liver reportedly a good predictor for the onset of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, fell by 38 per cent, report researchers from Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, and DuPont Central Research & Development. "Given that a wide range of wholegrain foods are now available to consumers, the results of the present study are timely, because they show that a diet high in wholegrains can improve CVD risk factors,"​ wrote lead author Heather Katcher in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.​ Whole grains have received considerable attention in the last year, especially in the US where the FDA permits foods containing at least 51 percent whole grains by weight and are low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to carry a health claim linking them to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The term wholegrain is considered to be more consumer-friendly than the term fibre, which leads some manufacturers to favour it on product packaging since it is likely to strike more of a chord of recognition for its healthy benefits. Despite a large body of science supporting the health benefits of wholegrains, "few clinical trials have tested whether incorporating whole grains into a hypocaloric diet increases weight loss and improves CVD risk factors,"​ explained Katcher and co-workers. The subjects, 25 women and 25 men (average age 46, average BMI 35.8 kg per sq. m) were assigned to consume a reduced calorie diet (reduced by 500 kcal/d) with half of the subjects then randomly assigned to obtain all of their grain servings from whole grains or to avoid wholegrain foods for 12 weeks. The researchers report that the reduced calorie diet produced decreases in body weight, waist circumference, and percentage body fat in both groups. However, greater reduction in percentage body fat in the abdomen was observed in the whole-grain group, compared to the refined-grain group. Moreover, CRP levels fell by 38 per cent in the whole-grain, but no changes in cholesterol levels were measured in either group. "A strength of the present study is that it was conducted in a free-living population with metabolic syndrome, so that the results easily translate to persons at risk of CVD who want to include whole grains in their diet with the goal of losing weight,"​ wrote the researchers. "Future studies examining larger cohorts for longer periods are necessary to determine the long-term health benefits of whole grains,"​ they concluded. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the cause of almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year. Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ January 2008, Volume 87, Pages 79-90 "The effects of a whole grain-enriched hypocaloric diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women with metabolic syndrome"​ Authors: H.I. Katcher, R.S. Legro, A.R. Kunselman, P.J. Gillies, L.M. Demers, D.M. Bagshaw, P.M. Kris-Etherton

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