Grain Chain offers D.G.A.C. input on importance of grains in the diet

by Eric Schroeder
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ROCKVILLE, MD. — The “Grain Chain,” a coalition made up of 11 grain industry groups, has called on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (D.G.A.C.) to pay special attention to the role of enriched and whole grains in the diet, vitamin D, fiber, iron, sodium, nutrition education and gluten as it develops the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (D.G.A.).

In comments filed electronically on June 3, the Grain Chain laid out its case for how the advisory committee should handle each topic.

In determining what role enriched grains should play in the diet, the Grain Chain said it endorses maintaining the 2010 D.G.A.C. recommendation that Americans consume six servings daily with at least half of all grains as whole grains. The group also has urged the D.G.A.C. to recognize “the valuable role” of enriched grains in a healthy diet, a key component of which is fortification with folic acid.

“Enriched grains, as mandated by the U.S. government since 1941, have the three major B vitamins and iron replaced in equal or larger amounts to those in whole grain products as defined by the standards of identity,” the Grain Chain said. “These essential B vitamins help maintain a healthy nervous system, increase energy production, and may play a role in lowering cholesterol. Due to this enrichment policy, serious diseases, including pellagra and beriberi, have been eradicated from the U.S. population.”

The Grain Chain also said it continues to support the Dietary Guidelines recommendation of making half of total grain servings whole grains, noting that the goal is “still valid and vital.” There has not been evidence to show benefits of higher daily intake, the groups said.

Other considerations related to grain consumption include vitamin D, fiber, iron and sodium. The Grain Chain said in its comments that recommendations should encourage consumption of bran and fortification of fiber in whole grains, enriched grains, and bran and germ-based products.

“A modeling study showed that by adding 2.5 to 5 grams of fiber to existing grain foods, we could reach the recommended level without an increase in calories,” the Grain Chain said. “The fiber content listed on the front-of-pack declaration of ‘Whole Grain’ or ‘Made with Whole Grain’ may encourage the consumer to eat more whole grains but not necessarily increase their fiber intake to the recommended amount. Grain foods provide 44% of the fiber in the American diet but we could provide more with added fiber of all types.”

Nutrition education also needs to be addressed in the new guidelines, the Grain Chain said.

“Members of the Grain Chain continue to find that consumers are confused about the differences between refined, enriched, fortified and whole grains,” the groups said. “Accurate definitions for grains should again be included in the final guidelines document to assist consumers in understanding the various grain products, and the role each plays in a healthy diet.”

Specifically, the Grain Chain offered definitions for whole grain products; refined, unenriched grain products; enriched/fortified grain products; and other fortified grain products.

Finally, the Grain Chain offered its members’ services in helping to educate around grain-related issues. For example, gluten was a topic raised by the D.G.A.C. at a meeting in mid-January, and the Grain Chain said its members have “a great deal of expertise on this subject, as well as access to leading experts in the field of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat breeding.”

Wrapping up its comments, the Grain Chain said it “urges the D.G.A.C. to maintain the recommendation that Americans consume six servings of grains daily with at least half as whole grains. We also believe it is important for the 2015 D.G.A. to recognize the valuable role of enriched grains in a healthy diet, a key component of which is fortification with folic acid.

“In addition, we ask that the committee include among its priorities a commitment to ensuring that the 2015 D.G.A. are irrefutably science-based, consistent with advice from other federal agencies and are communicated in terms easily understood by the public. Americans continue to be bombarded by health misinformation, miscommunication and misinterpretation through the news media, the web and a variety of other sources. Consistent guidance at the national level is a critical component in helping to turn the public away from ‘fad’ diets and sensationalized nutrition information.

“We look forward to working with the 2020 D.G.A.C. regarding important areas of emerging science, including sustainability, and the microbiome. As noted in our submission to Subcommittee 5 of the 2015 D.G.A.C., the entire Grain Chain is already focused on sustainability and efforts to advance resource efficiency. We are also supportive of future investigation of the microbiome and its role in diet and health.”
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