Refined grain foods are not linked to heart disease risk, study finds

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Refined grains include white flour, white rice, and white bread. Many breads, cereals, crackers, desserts and pastries are made with refined grains.

In a study from Arizona State University, scientists found that consuming high intakes of refined grain foods does not increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.

The study also calls for reflection on the Western dietary pattern and its consideration in future dietary recommendations.

Although refined grains are included as a component of the Western dietary pattern, the results suggest that refined grains do not contribute to the higher CVD risk.

In the study, the team analyzed data from 17 prospective studies (including 877,462 participants).

Some studies focused on staple grain foods (e.g., bread, cereal, pasta, white rice), while others included both staple and indulgent grain foods (e.g., cakes, cookies, doughnuts, brownies, muffins, pastries).

The current study showed a lack of association between refined grain intake and CVD risk.

These new results call into question the widely held view that refined grain foods are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The team says refined grains are typically included in the Western dietary pattern that also includes red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, French fries, and high-fat dairy products.

Research shows that it is these foods, especially red and processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages, that are the real culprits in this dietary pattern.

Meta-analyses in the new study indicate that the higher CVD risk associated with this dietary pattern is not from refined grain foods.

Refined grains are grains that have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ to extend the grain’s shelf life.

This process removes some of the original fiber and B vitamins from the food, but they are often enriched with additional B vitamins and iron.

The team hopes these new results will be considered in the formulation of future dietary guidelines for Americans.

It’s important that the nutrition community acknowledges these results, and while still promoting, rightfully so, increased consumption of whole grain foods, it doesn’t have to come at the expense of refined grain foods.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and flu and COVID vaccines may increase heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that artificial sweeteners in food linked to higher risk of heart disease, and results showing calcium supplements may harm your heart health.

The study was conducted by Dr. Glenn Gaesser et al and published in Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine.

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