Whole Grains Reduce Type 2 Diabetes in Men
Men who consume whole grains as part of their daily diet may reduce their risk of type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2002;76:535–40). While similar results have been found in women, this is the first study to show that adding whole grains to the diet may prevent type 2 diabetes in men.
The incidence of type 2 diabetes has increased in the past two decades in the United States. Known risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, family history of diabetes, and sedentary lifestyle. Some scientists speculate that consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates may be an additional risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Questionnaires were sent to 42,898 male health professionals between the ages of 40 and 75 years. Participants were asked about the frequency and portion sizes of food they consumed during the previous year. Other details, including smoking history, exercise habits, and body weight, were also assessed. Whole grains were defined as brown rice, dark breads, whole-grain ready-to-eat cereals, cooked cereal, popcorn, wheat germ, bran and other whole grains. Refined grains included white rice, white bread, English muffins, pancakes, waffles, cakes, sweet rolls, refined-grain ready-to-eat cereals, muffins, biscuits, and pizza.
People who consumed the highest amount of whole grains (3.2 servings per day) had a 30% to 40% reduction in risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who ate less than 1 serving a day. One serving of whole grains is equal to one slice of whole grain bread or ˝ cup of cooked brown rice. The decrease in diabetes risk was primarily attributed to the intake of cereals more than the other types of whole grains consumed.
Among men who consumed large amounts of whole grains, those with a lower body mass index (a measure of obesity) had a more significant decrease in type 2 diabetes risk than did obese men. This suggests that whole-grain consumption may have only a minimal benefit for obese men in decreasing their risk of type 2 diabetes. The benefits of whole grains may be due to their increased content of fiber, which is mostly removed in process of refining whole grains to white flour. However, some studies suggest that the higher amount of magnesium in whole grains also contributes to the lower risk of diabetes. More research is needed to clarify this issue. Intake of refined grains did not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of the amount consumed.
Whole grain intake may have other health benefits beyond preventing diabetes. Studies have shown that those who consume 2˝ to 3 servings per day of whole grains have a 25% to 30% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 30% decreased risk of having a stroke, compared with those consuming less than ˝ serving a day. However, studies show that the average American diet contains less than 1 serving per day of whole grains. The authors suggest that increasing the intake to 3 servings per day will have a substantial impact on the health of millions of Americans, including preventing type 2 diabetes, one of the most significant health problems of our times.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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