The Grain Chain: Consumption of Whole Grain Foods and Their Many Links to Disease Prevention

By Smith, Patricia | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Grain Chain: Consumption of Whole Grain Foods and Their Many Links to Disease Prevention


Smith, Patricia, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Abstract

This research paper is intended to raise awareness of the benefits of whole grains in the diet as well as to educate the consumer on how to select whole grain products. Scientific studies are reviewed, and the beneficial effects of human consumption of whole grain foods are summarized.

Whole grain intake has constantly been linked to protection from coronary heart disease (CHD). Intake of whole grains has also been shown to have a favorable effect on the treatment and prevention of obesity, diabetes mellitus and certain types of cancers. In 1999, the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved the Health Claim: "Diets rich in whole-grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers". In addition, "Healthy People 2010 Initiative" gives the following recommendation. "Grain Product Intake: Increase the proportion of persons who consume at least six daily servings of grains with at least three being whole grain from 7% to 50% by the year 2010". This objective, as well as the FDA approved health claim about grains conveys the importance of whole grains in the diet.

It is the strong belief of most health professionals that good nutrition is the key to better health. In 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced a new Food Pyramid which is intended to be used by the American public as a guide to wise food selection and better nutrition. One of the two most significant changes is the addition of whole grains to the Food Pyramid. The old Food Pyramid had a cereal and bread group, but it did not specify "whole" grains. However, because the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee Report "linked diets rich in whole grains to the reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as helping with weight management", the committee felt it necessary to recommend a minimum three ounces of whole grains daily. The guidelines instructs the consumer to look for the word "whole" before the word "grain" on the ingredient list of food packages. Researchers report that less than one in ten adults get the recommended amount of whole grains necessary to maintain good health and stave off preventable diet-related diseases. Americans need to be educated to the benefits of whole grains. Whole grains are rich in fiber and are also packed with hundreds of beneficial photochemicals that have potent antioxidant properties. Whole grains are also an important source of essential vitamins and minerals. These nutrients may work synergistically to help us improve our health and prevent many diet-related diseases.

In this Research Paper, Patricia P. Smith, Ed.D. RD, LD/N; CFCS, Professor of Nutrition presents an overview of the scientific studies that led to the current recommendations regarding the consumption of whole grains. She discusses the importance of whole grains in the diet and their relationship in disease prevention. She further outlines ways by which the consumer is able to identify whole grain products.

Introduction

Launched by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) in January 2000, Healthy People 2010 Initiative contains 467 objectives designed to serve as a road map for improving the health of all people in the United States during the first decade of the 21st century. "Healthy People 2010 Initiative" gives the following recommendation. "Grain Product Intake: Increase the proportion of persons who consume at least six daily servings of grains with at least three being whole grain from 7% to 50% by the year 2010. In 1999, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Health Claim: "Diets rich in whole-grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers".

The overall goal of the United States Department of Health as well as the Food and Drug Administration is to promote and protect the health and safety of all people, in and through the delivery of high quality public health services and promotion of health care standards.

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