High consumption of refined grains has been associated with increased risk of heart attack and early death, a study suggests.
The study, carried out by researchers from Simon Fraser University, Canada, found that consuming high quantity of refined grains, such as croissants and white bread, is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular disease, stroke and early death.
This is even as a nutritionist at the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr. Ariyo Oluwaseun, told PUNCH HealthWise that unhealthy diet is contributing to the alarming rate of non-communicable diseases globally, adding that death from these diseases could be prevented through healthy diet.
The study, titled, ‘Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology’ and published in Science Daily, has been examining diets from diverse populations in low-middle- and high-income countries around the world.
Over 16 years of analysis of 137,130 participants in 21 countries, including Canada, the researchers found the intake of refined grains and added sugars have greatly increased over the years.
“Grains were categorised into three groups: refined grains, whole grains and white rice. Refined grains included goods made with refined (example white) flour, including white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers, and bakery products/desserts containing refined grains. Whole grains included whole grain flours (example buckwheat) and intact or cracked whole grains (example steel cut oats).
“The study found that having more than seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with a 27 per cent greater risk for early death, 33 percent greater risk for heart disease and 47 per cent greater risk for stroke”, the researchers said.
Commenting on the study, SFU Health Sciences Professor, Scott Lear, said, “This study re-affirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods.
“No significant adverse health effects were found with consuming whole grains or white rice.
“The study suggests eating whole grain foods like brown rice and barley, and having fewer cereal grains and refined wheat products.
“Reducing one’s overall consumption of refined grains and having better quality carbohydrates is essential for optimal health outcomes.”
In a 2020 study published in Science Daily, researchers warned against the consumption of red, processed meat, refined grains and sugary beverages, noting that such diets are associated with increased inflammation of the body and could also increase the risk of heart disease.
The researchers said chronic inflammation had been shown to play an important role in the development of heart disease and stroke.
They revealed that certain inflammatory biomarkers, such as interleukins, chemokines and adhesion molecules, had been associated with early and late stages of atherosclerosis.
The researchers emphasised that healthy dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet (rich in olive oil, nuts, whole grain, fruits and vegetables, and seafood consumption, and light on dairy and red/processed meat), had shown lower concentrations of some inflammatory biomarkers and lower heart disease risk.
Lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Jun Li said, “Using an empirically-developed, food-based dietary index to evaluate levels of inflammation associated with dietary intake, we found that dietary patterns with higher inflammatory potential were associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease.
“Our study is among the first to link a food-based dietary inflammatory index with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Speaking with our Correspondent, Oluwaseun said that unhealthy diet was contributing to the alarming rate of non-communicable diseases globally, adding that death from these diseases could be prevented through healthy diet.
He said cardiovascular disease is one of the major causes of death globally.
He said, “Globally, it is estimated that about 30,140 people die daily due to poor diet. This is higher than the number of deaths from tobacco and high blood pressure.
“Many of these deaths are preventable if adequate attention is paid to what we eat and drink.
“A diet is considered poor if it is high in refined grains, added sugars, salt, unhealthy fats and animal-source foods; and low in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish and nuts.”
Oluwaseun noted, “Coincidentally, these are the characteristics of diets in many Nigerian households. In some other households, consumption of roots and tubers is heavy while fruits, vegetables, milk, seeds and nuts, and legumes are not adequately represented in the diet.
“These types of diets drive ill health and many diet-related non-communicable diseases that have become very common in our communities.”
The nutritionist urged the government to raise public awareness on the right choices of foods and good dietary practices.
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