Consuming Whole Grains Decreases the Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

Image: National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from Bethesda, MD, USA

A new analysis, which was led by  Kim Braun from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and  Erasmus University Medical Center, examined the relationship between the consumption of high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains and the risk of having type 2 diabetes in the future and found that having more grains in the diet can significantly lower the risk of the disease.

Previously, a number of studies have accentuated the increase in the chances of having type 2 diabetes and the consumption of carbohydrates. However, according to Braun, the major portion of the Standard American Diet or the western diets, in general, are poor-quality carbs.

This includes starchy potatoes, refined carbohydrates, and sugary carbs. The majority of the foods with these carbohydrates are consumed in the form of ultra-processed foods, which is the primary reason why they increase the risk of health conditions such as metabolic disease and obesity, both of which are risk factors for diabetes type 2.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that develops when the body is unable to use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to breakdown the sugars in the food that is consumed on a daily basis in order to absorb the nutrients and digest.

Know more about the current approach for diabetes here. 

The health condition requires major lifestyle changes and has lifelong consequences. If left untreated, it can lead to various complications including diabetic retinopathy and renal failure, which is why doctors recommend starting treatment as soon as testing indicates that a person is at high risk of developing diabetes.

The findings of the analysis, which will be presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s virtual conference called the  Nutrition 2020 Live Online, highlight the importance of awareness regarding the differences between the effects of eating high-quality carbohydrates and low-quality carbohydrates for the effective prevention of type 2 diabetes.

A vast majority of people either believe that having any kind of carbohydrates in the diet is harmful all carbohydrates are equally nutritious and beneficial to the health. In reality, it is very important to check carbohydrates especially before buying packaged foods that claim to be ‘healthy’ and nutrient-rich in order to select the beneficial ones.

Many of the so-called healthy foods with whole grains do not actually enlist all of their ingredients and can have unhealthy ingredients as well, which can later contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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The recently conducted review found the association between lowered risk of diabetes type 2 and high consumption of whole grains after assessing data of health care workers from three different studies including the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and Nurses’ Health Study 2.

Overall, the researchers examined the data of approximately 200,727 participants including both male and female health care overs. Over the study time period, nearly twelve thousand people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers then discovered the risk of developing diabetes remained significantly lower in people who replaced poor quality carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fats, animal protein, monosaturated fats, vegetable protein, and saturated fatty acids with high-quality carbohydrates.

In addition, it was also found that replacing poor-carbohydrates in the diet with saturated fats also somehow decreased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, the results did not remain the same when saturated fats were replaced with other aforementioned nutrients.



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Abeera I. Kazmi

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