Two Studies of hearthealthywholegrains

A reader sent me a link to a blog post claiming that paleo types who advise against eating grains are scaring people for no reason.  (No, I’m not going to link to it.)  Grains are good for us, you see, because the Mayo Clinic, the USDA and numerous other experts say so.  That’s the main evidence offered:  a mindless appeal to authority.

The writer acknowledges that the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease has gone up, as have claims of gluten intolerance, but suggests the increases are a matter of increased awareness.  In other words, we’ve been scared into the thinking wheat is bad for us, so we’re reporting more problems with wheat.

The reported increase in celiac isn’t due to better diagnosis, however.  As Dr. William Davis explained in Wheat Belly, the rate of celiac disease really and truly has gone up – it’s quadrupled, in fact.  We know that because researchers found blood samples taken from soldiers 50 years ago and compared them to blood samples taken from soldiers today.  Sure enough, today’s soldiers were four times more likely to have celiac antibodies in their blood.

As for the argument that gluten intolerance is all in our heads, perhaps a double-blind study would answer that.  You know, feed some subjects foods containing gluten, feed other subjects similar foods without gluten, with neither group knowing which foods they’re eating.  If only someone had conducted such a study …

… oh, wait.  It’s been done, as reported in a New York Times article about gluten sensitivity:

Crucial in the evolving understanding of gluten were the findings, published in 2011, in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, of an experiment in Australia. In the double-blind study, people who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, did not have celiac and were on a gluten-free diet were given bread and muffins to eat for up to six weeks. Some of them were given gluten-free baked goods; the others got muffins and bread with gluten. Thirty-four patients completed the study. Those who ate gluten reported they felt significantly worse.

So gluten intolerance isn’t all in people’s heads.  It’s in their guts too.  At least that was the case in this study.

Ahh, but if you eliminate grains, you’ll miss out on all the health benefits who grains provide, the blogger assured us.  Oodles of studies have shown that whole grains are good for us.

I’ve written about those studies many times.  Every time I tracked down a study purporting to prove the benefits of whole grains, the comparison was between people consuming whole grains and people consuming white flour.  All we can determine from those studies is that whole grains aren’t as bad for us as white flour.  To prove whole grains have real benefits, we’d have to compare people who eat whole grains to people who eat no grains.

Ask the USDA, a doctor, a dietitian, or almost anyone who writes health articles for the mainstream press, and they’ll go on and on about hearthealthywholegrains.  Well, here’s one study that actually measured changes in heart-disease risk factors after feeding subjects whole grains:

A total of 316 participants (aged 18-65 years; BMI>25 kg/m2) consuming < 30 g WG/d were randomly assigned to three groups: control (no dietary change), intervention 1 (60 g WG/d for 16 weeks) and intervention 2 (60 g WG/d for 8 weeks followed by 120 g WG/d for 8 weeks). Markers of CVD risk, measured at 0 (baseline), 8 and 16 weeks, were: BMI, percentage body fat, waist circumference; fasting plasma lipid profile, glucose and insulin; and indicators of inflammatory, coagulation, and endothelial function. Differences between study groups were compared using a random intercepts model with time and WG intake as factors.

120 grams of whole grains … that’s a lot of hearthealthywholegrain goodness.  Now let’s look at the results:

Although reported WG intake was significantly increased among intervention groups, and demonstrated good participant compliance, there were no significant differences in any markers of CVD risk between groups. A period of 4 months may be insufficient to change the lifelong disease trajectory associated with CVD. The lack of impact of increasing WG consumption on CVD risk markers implies that public health messages may need to be clarified to consider the source of WG and/or other diet and lifestyle factors linked to the benefits of whole-grain consumption seen in observational studies.

Yes, I’d say the public-health messages regarding whole grains need to be clarified.  Here’s my version of the clarification:

Sorry … turns out we were wrong about the whole-grain thing.


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87 thoughts on “Two Studies of hearthealthywholegrains

  1. SueD

    Just want to add to the anti-wheat mention – today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinal Wednesday food section featured numerous articles and recipes concerning gluten free living. Additionally, a short interview with Dr. Davis (Milwaukee’s own) was included.

    On a sad note – one local chain is offering as a special next week a half gallon of chocolate milk for 39 cents. A mere quart of full fat white milk is currently running between $1.59-1.89. Makes you shake your head.

    Ugh.

    Reply
  2. NM

    It’s not just healthy-wholegrains. Massive main headlines in all UK news this morning was that (processed) meat’s going to kill us. Thanks, of course, to another OBSERVATIONAL study:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21682779

    And, guess what. I checked the full study and it does NOT adjust for sugar, starch or carbohydrate at all. Indeed, literally do a ctrl+f on the PDF and you’ll find not *one* mention of any of those:
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-11-63.pdf

    So, of course, for all those people enjoying a bacon sandwich and a coke, it’s the bacon that’s getting 100% of the blame here.

    Still, at least the pernicious maths-torturers couldn’t manage to get red meat to plead guilty here, and just had to agree to “processed” meats instead.

    People who eat a lot of processed meat tend to have crappy diets in general.

    Reply
  3. Jim Butler

    Hmmm…put a rather wordy reply in this morning…didn’t see it appear waiting for moderation, so reposted it, then got the “Hmmm…it appears you already said this?” msg from WordPress, so assumed it was in.

    Apparently not 😉 Oh well.

    Jim

    Sorry, no idea what happened there.

    Reply
  4. Lauren

    Ugh! Everytime some gives me the line about “needing” whole grains or I’ll miss “vital nutrients”, I always ask, “What nutrients are in whole grain that I cannot get elsewhere?”
    So far, no one can answer me. Point, set, match please pass that slab of fat-dripping steak and broccoli, thanks.

    And how did humans survive for hundreds of thousands of years without those “vital” nutrients?

    Reply
  5. paulc

    [quote]Walter Bushell says:
    March 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

    What passes for “whole wheat” bread in America will likely spike your blood sugar more than eating sugar directly from the bowl.[/quote]

    of course it will, gram for gram, starch will hit your blood glucose levels twice as hard a sucrose because starch is all glucose molecules linked up, while sucrose is glucose and fructose molecules… the fructose has negligible effect on your blood glucose levels (but very bad effects upon your liver)

    what freaks me out is that fructose gets a healthy low GI image and is even used as a sweetener in diabetic products!!!

    That’s because the fructose is processed in the liver and, if your glycogen stores are full, it’s turned to liver fat. So it doesn’t spike blood sugar, but gives you a fatty liver.

    Reply
  6. NM

    “So it doesn’t spike blood sugar”. The problem is, fructose does spike *a* blood sugar via GLUT2:! And excess fructose in the blood is even more destructive in the arteries than glucose. But because standard monitors don’t register fructose, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

    Those who recommend fructose as safe because it “doesn’t spike blood glucose” is like recommending standing next to high-energy gamma-radiation sources because they don’t register on alpha-particle meters 😉

    If, for some reason, we regularly measured our blood-fructose, then maybe we’d be recommending “safe” glucose to everyone, which didn’t spike it.

    Reply
  7. NM

    It’s not just healthy-wholegrains. Massive main headlines in all UK news this morning was that (processed) meat’s going to kill us. Thanks, of course, to another OBSERVATIONAL study:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21682779

    And, guess what. I checked the full study and it does NOT adjust for sugar, starch or carbohydrate at all. Indeed, literally do a ctrl+f on the PDF and you’ll find not *one* mention of any of those:
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-11-63.pdf

    So, of course, for all those people enjoying a bacon sandwich and a coke, it’s the bacon that’s getting 100% of the blame here.

    Still, at least the pernicious maths-torturers couldn’t manage to get red meat to plead guilty here, and just had to agree to “processed” meats instead.

    People who eat a lot of processed meat tend to have crappy diets in general.

    Reply
  8. Jim Butler

    Hmmm…put a rather wordy reply in this morning…didn’t see it appear waiting for moderation, so reposted it, then got the “Hmmm…it appears you already said this?” msg from WordPress, so assumed it was in.

    Apparently not 😉 Oh well.

    Jim

    Sorry, no idea what happened there.

    Reply
  9. Walter Bushell

    RE: Paulc’s comment The quote is from Mr. Naughton in reply to me.

    I’m not sure whether spiked blood sugar or fatty liver is worst. Carried to extreme either one will kill you.

    I have recovered (mostly) from fatty liver, from sugar. I looked at some antidrug propaganda and I was the very picture of an alcoholic induced fatty liver type. People with non alcoholic fatty liver are turned down for transplants because the doctors figure that they are lying alcoholics and this can be fatal.

    Reply
  10. Lauren

    Ugh! Everytime some gives me the line about “needing” whole grains or I’ll miss “vital nutrients”, I always ask, “What nutrients are in whole grain that I cannot get elsewhere?”
    So far, no one can answer me. Point, set, match please pass that slab of fat-dripping steak and broccoli, thanks.

    And how did humans survive for hundreds of thousands of years without those “vital” nutrients?

    Reply
  11. paulc

    [quote]Walter Bushell says:
    March 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

    What passes for “whole wheat” bread in America will likely spike your blood sugar more than eating sugar directly from the bowl.[/quote]

    of course it will, gram for gram, starch will hit your blood glucose levels twice as hard a sucrose because starch is all glucose molecules linked up, while sucrose is glucose and fructose molecules… the fructose has negligible effect on your blood glucose levels (but very bad effects upon your liver)

    what freaks me out is that fructose gets a healthy low GI image and is even used as a sweetener in diabetic products!!!

    That’s because the fructose is processed in the liver and, if your glycogen stores are full, it’s turned to liver fat. So it doesn’t spike blood sugar, but gives you a fatty liver.

    Reply
  12. NM

    “So it doesn’t spike blood sugar”. The problem is, fructose does spike *a* blood sugar via GLUT2:! And excess fructose in the blood is even more destructive in the arteries than glucose. But because standard monitors don’t register fructose, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

    Those who recommend fructose as safe because it “doesn’t spike blood glucose” is like recommending standing next to high-energy gamma-radiation sources because they don’t register on alpha-particle meters 😉

    If, for some reason, we regularly measured our blood-fructose, then maybe we’d be recommending “safe” glucose to everyone, which didn’t spike it.

    Reply
  13. Walter Bushell

    RE: Paulc’s comment The quote is from Mr. Naughton in reply to me.

    I’m not sure whether spiked blood sugar or fatty liver is worst. Carried to extreme either one will kill you.

    I have recovered (mostly) from fatty liver, from sugar. I looked at some antidrug propaganda and I was the very picture of an alcoholic induced fatty liver type. People with non alcoholic fatty liver are turned down for transplants because the doctors figure that they are lying alcoholics and this can be fatal.

    Reply
  14. gollum

    I recently read up on something called the polyol pathway:
    Too much glucose in the blood favors recycling it into fructose and sorbitol. Sort of a last defense, I guess.

    Sorbitol unfortunately has a slow ‘-ase and sticks around, pardon the pun, making cells go all swollen.
    It is theorized that this makes up for a good part of damage from hyperglycemia.

    So what do you think my bag of “Sweetener for Diabetics” is filled with ? That’s right, >99% sorbitol.

    However they sort of canned the special diabetics’ foods with lots of fructose here (after having pushed them for at least 30 years, of course).

    Dr. Richard Johnson has also conducted some recent research suggesting that some people may convert glucose to fructose, which means excess starch could end up producing the fructose damage Dr. Lustig warns us about.

    Reply
  15. gollum

    I recently read up on something called the polyol pathway:
    Too much glucose in the blood favors recycling it into fructose and sorbitol. Sort of a last defense, I guess.

    Sorbitol unfortunately has a slow ‘-ase and sticks around, pardon the pun, making cells go all swollen.
    It is theorized that this makes up for a good part of damage from hyperglycemia.

    So what do you think my bag of “Sweetener for Diabetics” is filled with ? That’s right, >99% sorbitol.

    However they sort of canned the special diabetics’ foods with lots of fructose here (after having pushed them for at least 30 years, of course).

    Dr. Richard Johnson has also conducted some recent research suggesting that some people may convert glucose to fructose, which means excess starch could end up producing the fructose damage Dr. Lustig warns us about.

    Reply
  16. Marilyn

    @Walter Bushnell: “People with non alcoholic fatty liver are turned down for transplants because the doctors figure that they are lying alcoholics and this can be fatal.”

    And a person who does not drink can have an awful time getting decent treatment for a liver problem because the doctor insists that he’s lying about not drinking. Happened to a friend of mine.

    Reply
  17. Christopoll

    “Quick, find an excuse, else the companies that support us will not pay us!”

    By the way, do you ever eat dark chocolate? Like 80% cocoa or more?

    Very, very rarely. Nothing against it, but I’ve never craved chocolate.

    Reply
  18. Marilyn

    @Walter Bushnell: “People with non alcoholic fatty liver are turned down for transplants because the doctors figure that they are lying alcoholics and this can be fatal.”

    And a person who does not drink can have an awful time getting decent treatment for a liver problem because the doctor insists that he’s lying about not drinking. Happened to a friend of mine.

    Reply
  19. Christopoll

    “Quick, find an excuse, else the companies that support us will not pay us!”

    By the way, do you ever eat dark chocolate? Like 80% cocoa or more?

    Very, very rarely. Nothing against it, but I’ve never craved chocolate.

    Reply
  20. goll

    Actually I wonder whether maybe there are people that have polyol on overdrive,
    providing “natural glucose tolerance”.

    That would explain cases where people experience diabetic damage, but quack says BG or urine is “normal”.

    On the other hand I’m not sure how that would be beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint, since it does damage.
    If we, on the other hand, theorize that these are “high-protein-low-carb-people”, polyol shouldn’t be useful at all.
    Maybe if we think about blooming summer and in the heat you eat, eat eat carbs and stuff your cells, half of it goes to the adipocytes, the other half goes to polyol and is metabolized slowly in the night?
    Summer lasts two months only so damage is limited (I call that pet diabetes theory of mine “Endless summer” – people eat strawberries in January nowadays. But I would have to add that other people got this idea too, the rdos.net asperger guy I think).

    Reply
  21. goll

    Actually I wonder whether maybe there are people that have polyol on overdrive,
    providing “natural glucose tolerance”.

    That would explain cases where people experience diabetic damage, but quack says BG or urine is “normal”.

    On the other hand I’m not sure how that would be beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint, since it does damage.
    If we, on the other hand, theorize that these are “high-protein-low-carb-people”, polyol shouldn’t be useful at all.
    Maybe if we think about blooming summer and in the heat you eat, eat eat carbs and stuff your cells, half of it goes to the adipocytes, the other half goes to polyol and is metabolized slowly in the night?
    Summer lasts two months only so damage is limited (I call that pet diabetes theory of mine “Endless summer” – people eat strawberries in January nowadays. But I would have to add that other people got this idea too, the rdos.net asperger guy I think).

    Reply
  22. Marilyn

    From what I’ve read, the bacteria in the mouth that cause dental problems can be as happy with sorbitol as they are with sucrose. So much for all that sorbitol “sugar free” chewing gum. . . and all the sorbitol sweetened mouth rinses. . . and all the sorbitol sweetened tooth pastes . . .

    Reply
  23. Marilyn

    From what I’ve read, the bacteria in the mouth that cause dental problems can be as happy with sorbitol as they are with sucrose. So much for all that sorbitol “sugar free” chewing gum. . . and all the sorbitol sweetened mouth rinses. . . and all the sorbitol sweetened tooth pastes . . .

    Reply
  24. Jean

    I don’t think the 50 years for an idea to change has even started, I’m afraid. Even if we convince the authorities and the medical profession we will still have a whole generation learning this rubbish in school because all the biology text books bang on about arterycloggingsaturatedfat and hearthealthywholegrains and schools can’t afford to dump expensive resources.

    I think the change has started. I’m seeing more articles in the popular press that get it right.

    Reply
  25. Jean

    I don’t think the 50 years for an idea to change has even started, I’m afraid. Even if we convince the authorities and the medical profession we will still have a whole generation learning this rubbish in school because all the biology text books bang on about arterycloggingsaturatedfat and hearthealthywholegrains and schools can’t afford to dump expensive resources.

    I think the change has started. I’m seeing more articles in the popular press that get it right.

    Reply
  26. Todd

    While I am not full Paleo, I have have up all breads, pastas, most starches and and significantly reduced simple carbohydrates overall . Since then (Xmas 2012), I have dropped 20 pounds from 198 to 178. For a guy who is 5 ft 8 inches at 34 ages that is not bad at all. While I do exercise more, it not a huge increase and only when I feel like it – ironically my deal approach eating increases motivation also be physically active. While I try to make breakfast largest meal in terms of protein and size, I essentially eat till I am full and eat when I feel like it – No more and no less than what I want.

    As for gastro issues as others have mentioned in their posts, I had salmonella in 2010 and ever since I had always had had gastro issues. Some weeks were better than others, while others I had to thinking about where the next bathroom was in my travels outside the house. Since this new approach to food, my bowel habits are not perfect, but quite satisfactory as I no longer go multiple times a day and live in anxiety about being to far away from a bathroom. Oddly, when I think back to it, my bowels habits were rarely consistent. I would like to say we are only now discovering how bread and all these other simple carbs are the cause and/or co-factors in a lot of illness, but sadly, previous research going back long ago confirms this as well. We of course fed off a paleo diet early in our human history and of course started to manipulate our world to make food more ready and on demand. We made food that is not really digestible consumable and use our predisposition for certain tastes to increase consumption and in turn sales. Unfortunately we shot first and asked questions later…..well in some regards,we shot first and dare not to ask questions or at least try to silence those who do….sigh.

    Reply
  27. Todd

    While I am not full Paleo, I have have up all breads, pastas, most starches and and significantly reduced simple carbohydrates overall . Since then (Xmas 2012), I have dropped 20 pounds from 198 to 178. For a guy who is 5 ft 8 inches at 34 ages that is not bad at all. While I do exercise more, it not a huge increase and only when I feel like it – ironically my deal approach eating increases motivation also be physically active. While I try to make breakfast largest meal in terms of protein and size, I essentially eat till I am full and eat when I feel like it – No more and no less than what I want.

    As for gastro issues as others have mentioned in their posts, I had salmonella in 2010 and ever since I had always had had gastro issues. Some weeks were better than others, while others I had to thinking about where the next bathroom was in my travels outside the house. Since this new approach to food, my bowel habits are not perfect, but quite satisfactory as I no longer go multiple times a day and live in anxiety about being to far away from a bathroom. Oddly, when I think back to it, my bowels habits were rarely consistent. I would like to say we are only now discovering how bread and all these other simple carbs are the cause and/or co-factors in a lot of illness, but sadly, previous research going back long ago confirms this as well. We of course fed off a paleo diet early in our human history and of course started to manipulate our world to make food more ready and on demand. We made food that is not really digestible consumable and use our predisposition for certain tastes to increase consumption and in turn sales. Unfortunately we shot first and asked questions later…..well in some regards,we shot first and dare not to ask questions or at least try to silence those who do….sigh.

    Reply
  28. Phyllis Mueller

    @Todd–Have you replenished your gut microflora with probiotics? There are many options–active culture yogurts, probiotic capsules, drinks like kombucha or fermented coconut (Kevita) or beet kvass, or naturally fermented pickles and sauerkraut. They are widely available at health-food stores, and some you can make yourself. Any or all could help and it’s unlikely that any would hurt you (unless you’re allergic to the ingredients).

    For some people, eating less fiber of any kind (and more meat and fat) can help.

    Reply
  29. Phyllis Mueller

    @Todd–Have you replenished your gut microflora with probiotics? There are many options–active culture yogurts, probiotic capsules, drinks like kombucha or fermented coconut (Kevita) or beet kvass, or naturally fermented pickles and sauerkraut. They are widely available at health-food stores, and some you can make yourself. Any or all could help and it’s unlikely that any would hurt you (unless you’re allergic to the ingredients).

    For some people, eating less fiber of any kind (and more meat and fat) can help.

    Reply
  30. Dariusz

    I wonder how many gluten-free company pay you ?

    That would explain all the ads for gluten-free foods on my site.

    Reply

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