High intake of refined grains, like those found in croissants and white bread, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and death, shows a massive international study in which contributed researchers from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

The study associated more than seven servings per day of refined grains with a 27% increase in the risk of early death, a 33% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and a 47% increase in the risk of stroke.

No adverse health effects have been associated with the consumption of whole grains or rice.

“It’s a subject that is not very controversial,” responded Benoît Lamarche, scientific director of the NUTRISS Center of the Institute on Nutrition and Functional Foods at Laval University. The big recommendations on the planet say that we should prefer to consume whole grains rather than refined grains, and that is in all food guides. “

The PURE study (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) is interested in the diets of people around the world, whether in poor countries, in developing countries or in developed countries, including Canada. It brings together some 140,000 people in 21 countries.

Grains have been divided into three categories: refined grains, whole grains, and rice.

Refined grains are found in foods such as white bread, pasta / noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers and some desserts. Whole grains include whole grain flour, intact grains, or crushed grains.

It is interesting that rice was put in a category of its own, which found that it did not seem to be associated with any increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Lamarche said.

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In addition, as the study was carried out in several countries, including some where rice consumption is very different from that of Canada, it was possible to study not very homogeneous cohorts.

“We have a diversity of participants in the study, with a diet that is still fairly rigorous in each country,” explained Mr. Lamarche. It is reassuring to see that these associations hold the road across the world. “

This type of study, however, cannot measure what happens when refined grains are replaced by whole grains.

The researchers observe that the subject consumes more or less of them than the others, but those who consume “less” of them have replaced them with something else in their diet, recalls Mr. Lamarche.

“If someone has replaced white bread with brown bread, there is a potential double effect,” he said. We remove the negative effect of white bread and add to it the positive effect of brown bread. “

He recalls in closing that, in the field of food, everything is a question of balance between foods that seem to have a more favorable effect on health and others, since small effects can add up over time. to each other to create a big effect.

“You don’t just have to look at brown bread or brown pasta, but the whole diet,” said Lamarche. Healthy eating is the addition of all the little things over a lifetime. The key factor is the overall quality of the diet. It is one of the main risk factors for chronic diseases. “

The findings of this study were published by The British Medical Journal.

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