BENGALURU: A higher intake of refined grains is associated with a higher risk of total mortality and major cardiovascular diseases, stated a new research published in The BMJ, on Wednesday. The study was done among 1,37,130 adults across 21 countries. Researchers from St John’s Research Institute in Bengaluru and other international universities collected data on demographics, lifestyle and eating habits, which was then compared to health outcomes. The participants were studied for nearly a decade.
It found that processed carbohydrates, like white bread, breakfast cereal, pasta, and pastries, could play a role in chronic disease, regardless of what else is in your diet. It specified that such foods are linked to heart disease risk. “Participants who ate 7-10 slices of white bread a day (or similar amount of refined carbs) were 33% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, and 27% more likely to die,” found the study.
But not all carbs were linked to health risks. Participants who ate a lot of whole grains and white rice didn’t have a higher risk of disease and the study stated that they are healthier alternatives to processed carbs.
One of the researchers, Dr Sumathi Swaminathan, Division of Nutrition, St. John’s Research Institute,
St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, said that improving the quality of carbohydrates could be an important factor in helping people maintain a healthy diet. She said that the previous studies have been conducted mostly in North America and Europe with limited information from other parts of the world where the amount and types of carbohydrates consumed in the diet vary.
This study has the “distinct advantage of examining diets from diverse populations in low, middle, and high-income countries in multiple regions across the world. The analysis reported here was conducted to evaluate the association of intake of refined grains, whole grains, and white rice with total mortality, major cardiovascular disease events, BP and blood lipids,” she said.
It says these findings support a previous study that high carbohydrate consumption overall was linked to greater risk of heart disease. Contrary to previous studies, which have suggested that white rice can spike blood sugar levels and potentially increase the risk of diseases, this one found that the white rice is not associated with the same health risks as other refined grains.
Nutrition expert Dr Geetha D of a private hospital said this study can help the governments to frame nutritional guidelines. “In many places, refined grains are provided as they are cheaper than whole grains. Public health agencies should be involved and guidelines planned accordingly,” she said.