Only 6% of children and 17% of adults in the United Kingdom eat at least 48 grams of whole grains per day.

U.K. study shows whole grain intake lagging

The United Kingdom might benefit from whole grain recommendations similar to those in the United States and Denmark, judging by results from a Newcastle University study that appeared in April in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers used the United Kingdom’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008-11 to analyze the whole grain intake of 3,073 children, teenagers and adults. Only 6% of children and 17% of adults in the United Kingdom ate at least 48 grams of whole grains per day, which is the amount recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. In Denmark, people are encouraged to eat 75 grams of whole grains per day.

The study found average intake in the United Kingdom was about 20 grams per day for adults and 13 grams per day for children and teenagers. More than 40% of adults and 60% of children ate less than 16 grams a day. The results suggested even small intakes of whole grain may contribute to better health and diet pattern and that increased whole grain intake should be encouraged.

“The key message here is that this doesn’t require a major lifestyle change,” said Chris Seal, Ph.D., a professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. “Just small tweaks to the diet, such as replacing white rice and pasta for brown or eating porridge or a whole grain cereal for breakfast, can have a major impact on your health.

“And we aren’t talking about huge amounts either. Three slices of whole meal bread is all you need to get your daily amount of whole grain, and a large bowl of whole wheat pasta is equivalent to two days’ worth.”

People who ate more whole grains in the U.K. study were eating up to 7 grams more dietary fiber per day, and they also had a higher intake of vitamins and minerals.

“People who eat a diet high in whole grains tend to have a healthier lifestyle overall, and factors such as exercise, diet and smoking all impact on an individual’s overall health and well-being,” Dr. Seal said. “However, the higher fiber and nutrient content of whole grain foods compared with foods made from refined carbohydrates are significantly beneficial.”