A recent Scandinavian study conducted by researchers from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology and the Danish Cancer Society appears to confirm what researchers have been saying for years: When it comes to preventing type two diabetes, whole grains are a key food. These findings swim against the recent current that’s been calling for the adoption of low-carbohydrate diets in a bid to prevent or manage the illness.
Unlike previous studies that showed the link between whole grains consumption and reduced type two diabetes risk, this study also set out to investigate whether the type and amount of whole grains consumed affected this risk reduction. Previous studies were often conducted in the United States where the main wholegrain consumed is wheat.
This study was conducted in Denmark, a country where the population consume a variety of wholegrain-rich foods including rye-bread and oatmeal porridge. The results showed that the type of wholegrain consumed did not matter, but the amount they consumed did, with the group of participants consuming the largest amount of whole grains being the least likely to develop type two diabetes.
The participants were split into four groups depending on the amount of whole grains they reported consume on a daily basis. The group with the highest intake of whole grains contained participants who consumed at least 50 grams daily. In this group, the risk of developing diabetes was 34 and 22 per cent lower in men and women respectively in comparison with the group that consumed the lowest amount of whole grains.
A senior researcher in the study, Rikard Landberg, who currently holds the position of Professor in Food and Health at Chalmers University believes that the results would have been the same if the study was replicated in the United States. He also says that the different bioactive components found in different whole grains, as well as the different types of fibre, did not affect the amount of protection they offered against type two diabetes, despite the expectation that they would affect it.
He also stresses that the narrative surrounding the discussion of carbohydrates should change, and that it’s important to not lump all carbohydrates – such as whole grains, sugars and refined cereals – in the same group as they have different impacts on our bodies.
The study used data from a perspective cohort study conducted in Denmark assessing the effects of whole grains on a cohort of over 55,000 participants over a period of 15 years. The participants were aged 50-65 at the start of the study and mostly consumed whole grains in the form of wheat, rye and oats or wholegrain-rich foods such as various types wholegrain bread and porridge. 7000 of the participants developed diabetes during this period, according to data was gathered from the national diabetes register in Denmark which was also linked to this study.
So it turns out that all the advice we heard from our parents growing up about whole grains doing us good was right. Rest assured that having a wholegrain slice of toast instead of white one sometimes isn’t just a waste of time.