The report, “The Grains & Legumes Health Report,” provides an overview of the latest scientific research for the role of grain foods in the Australian diet. The findings include consistent scientific evidence for the role of whole grains in protecting against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and obesity. Currently, Australian dietary guidelines recommend Australians consume at least four servings of grain-based foods each per day, and while health authorities around the world recommend that at least half of all grain consumption be whole grains, there are no official Australian recommendations for whole grain consumption.
“For the first time, (the report) collates the extensive body of scientific findings that establish the ability of grains and legumes to lower the risk of a number of preventable health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and obesity,” said David Topping, chief research scientist for Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and a contributor to the report. “These conditions represent some of our leading causes of death and disability and their enormous scale means that the population as a whole is at risk. When we look to managing these serious issues, prevention, not cure, is the preferred option.
“The report is an evaluation of the literature relating to whole grains, legumes and their constituents, which have the potential to lower the risk of major lifestyle diseases by at least 20%. The evidence for risk reduction comes predominantly from large prospective cohort studies that have been published in peer-reviewed international journals and have been the subject of meta-analyses by recognized authorities.
“Importantly, this reduced risk is achievable through relatively modest dietary changes — incorporating as little as 2-3 servings of whole grain foods into the daily diet — and can be attained with foods readily available at the supermarket.”
Among the key findings for whole grains, the report found:
• Eating two to four servings of whole grain foods a day may reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 40%.
• Whole grain foods may help to lower blood pressure.
• A diet high in whole grains is associated with a lower body mass index, waist circumference and risk of being overweight.
• There is emerging science about the benefits of whole grain consumption for prevention of periodontal disease and asthma.
Even while promoting the benefits of whole grains, the report pointed out that refined grains remain an important part of the diet as well.
“While whole grain foods may be nutritionally preferable overall, refined grain-based foods generally have a lower phytate content, which can improve mineral bioavailability, and they contribute valuable nutrients and fiber to a balanced diet,” the report said. “Refined grain-based foods such as white bread, white rice, corn tortillas, pasta and couscous can be important elements in the traditional cuisines of many of the culture represented in Australia.”
The full report is available at www.gograins.com.au.