Researchers found increasing consumption of whole grain foods reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the BMJ journal. People who ate whole grains the most frequently (two or more servings per week) had a 29% lower rate of a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis than those who consumed the least amount of whole grains (never or less than one serving per month). The research showed the benefits of whole grain intake plateaued after two servings per week.
When compared to individuals eating whole grains less than once a month, Baking Business reported those consuming one or more servings of whole grain cold breakfast cereal per week had a 19% lower rate of becoming diabetic; and dark bread corresponded with a 21% lower rate of diabetes. Individuals eating two or more servings of whole grains weekly had a 21% lower rate of diabetes if that grain was oatmeal, 15% lower if they consumed added bran, and 12% lower if they ate both brown rice and wheat germ.
The research was based on three separate observational studies with a total of 158,259 women and 36,525 men who did not have Type 2 diabetes at baseline.
Consumers looking for functional health and wellness benefits may not need added ingredients with boosted nutritional profiles. All they may need is to add some whole grains into their diets.
Currently, 40% of Americans never eat whole grains, according to studies cited by the Oldways Whole Grains Council, and those who do are not always sure about the quantity they are ingesting. In a 2017 survey from General Mills and Nestlé, 38% of consumers didn’t know which foods contain whole grains. Despite uncertainty about the quantity they consume, shoppers seem to know that whole grains are important to their diet.
Conventional dietary wisdom has indicated for decades that eating more whole grains, which have a lower glycemic index than their refined counterparts, are associated with good cardiometabolic health due to the higher quantities of dietary fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, and phytochemicals.
Although whole wheat bread and oatmeal are often pointed to as sources of whole grain, there is a much wider menu for consumers to choose from. Rye, buckwheat, quinoa, farro, bulgur wheat, sorghum, teff and millet are popular sources of whole grains that have been showing up more frequently in ready-to-eat and prepared products. According to Innova Market Insights, quinoa was the No. 1 ingredient among them, appearing in 44% of all U.S. product launches involving grains in 2017.
Still, Americans continue to enjoy pasta, bread and other traditionally refined grain products. At the same time, diabetes has been on the rise in the U.S. The CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report found 26.9 million people — or 8.2% of the US population — had diagnosed diabetes in 2018, the lion’s share being Type 2.
While whole grain consumption is not the only contributing factor to developing diabetes, this study shows there is a close relationship between the two. The study noted 97% of the deaths that were identified occurred from individuals consuming fewer whole grains.
This is not the only study to identify a link between whole grain consumption and health. Long-term dietary reviews strongly suggest people who eat more whole grains tend to live longer. The claim that whole grain products are healthier than refined, white flour is backed up by decades of research.
Even consumers actively trying to avoid carbohydrates can benefit from these findings. The research shows these health-boosting effects are recordable with only two servings of whole grains weekly.
Ingesting such a quantity is not difficult as many manufacturers have begun to add whole grains to their products in a bid to attract consumers. Snaak Bar has introduced bars containing chia seeds, and Kind Snacks includes them in several bar varieties. Mondelez’s Enjoy Life Foods offers an ancient grain pizza crust; Van’s, owned by Kohlberg & Co., makes gluten-free ancient grain waffles; and Costco sells Kirkland Ancient Crackers.
To make things even easier on consumers, German milling firm GoodMills Innovations developed an online Whole Grain Index tool to calculate the whole-grain content of products. This allows manufactures to use a seal on their packaging to clearly alert consumers to the whole grain content.