The authors, whose findings were publishing in the British Journal of Nutrition and the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, said that a wholegrain-rich diet tended to lower subjects’ total and LDL cholesterol levels compared to the diet rich in refined grains.
Additionally, the wholegrain diet increased plasma betaine, the molecule associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, said the Nestlé team.
Gut health indicators, including regularity, were also improved in subjects that ate wholegrains.
In the study 17 healthy subjects received either a wholegrain-rich diet or a diet with refined (white flour-based) grains for two weeks, explained the authors.
The study meals, they added, included a wide variety of wholegrain foods such as frozen meals with wholegrain pasta, Nestlé brand wholegrain cereals, as well as porridge, cereal bars, risotto and bread.
Subjects were pre-screened for the trial, continued the researchers, using a Food Frequency Questionnaire developed by the Nestlé researchers to assess wholegrain intake.
They claim the questionnaire gives a rapid and accurate assessment of wholegrain cereal intake, with nutritional metabonomics, a holistic research approach to link nutrition, metabolism, and health outcomes, was used to study the effect of wholegrain foods on human metabolism.
“This was a short-term trial, but it indicates that there may be a real effect of wholegrain foods on cardiovascular disease risk, even in healthy subjects,” said Dr Alastair Ross, the Nestlé lead researcher.
“This is the first study to find that a wholegrain diet increases plasma betaine, which may indicate another mechanism by which whole grains could impact cardiovascular disease risk,” he added.
The Nestlé scientists concluded that further research in this area is required with a follow-up trial involving larger number of subjects and an assessment over a longer period of time.
Last week, BakeryandSnacks.com reported on another similar EU Healthgrain project that invovled researchers based at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland.
This team reported that clinical trials over four weeks involving subjects consuming ready-to-eat cereals and bread containing wheat aleurone fractions showed a significant impact on postprandial betaine and ferulic acid plasma levels.
The global market for wholegrain and high fibre foods is expected to reach a value of €15.5bn this year, with Europe accounting for 29 per cent of sales, according to the Datamonitor report, Fibre & Whole Food Consumption Trends: Profitable Innovation Opportunities (July 2008).
Nearly 40 per cent of Europeans regularly buy whole high fibre foods. Cereals represent the largest segment, while the baked food/snacks category offers the most potential, concluded the report.