New Findings about Whole Grains and Heart Health

Posted by Josette Dunn on 12th May 2010

Scientists from the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, presented at the HealthGrain ( conference in Lund, Sweden, new findings which confirm that a diet rich in whole grains can be beneficial for heart health.

Whole grains

In the study, 17 healthy subjects received either a wholegrain-rich diet or a diet with refined (white flour-based) grains for two weeks. Results showed that even after such a short intervention, the wholegrain-rich diet tended to lower subjects’ total and LDL cholesterol levels compared to the diet rich in refined grains.

Additionally, the wholegrain diet increased plasma betaine, a molecule associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Gut health indicators, including regularity, were also improved in subjects that ate wholegrains.

Subjects were pre-screened for the trial using a Food Frequency Questionnaire developed by Nestlé researchers to especially assess wholegrain intake. A first-of-its-kind tool in the field of wholegrain research, the questionnaire gives a rapid and accurate assessment of wholegrain cereal intake. Nutritional metabonomics, a holistic research approach to link nutrition, metabolism, and health outcomes, was used to study the effect of wholegrain foods on human metabolism.

“This was a short-term trial, but it indicates that there may be a real effect of wholegrain foods on cardiovascular disease risk, even in healthy subjects,” said Dr. Alastair Ross, Nestlé scientist leading the study. “This is the first study to find that a wholegrain diet increases plasma betaine, which may indicate another mechanism by which whole grains could impact cardiovascular disease risk.”

This study joins the growing body of evidence in support of wholegrains for heart health.  Another study, conducted in Australia recently showed that wholegrains as effective as medication in heart health.

A previous study by Nestlé scientists found that some wholegrain cereal products are excellent sources of betaine. They now have strong evidence showing that the betaine levels in whole grains influence circulating levels in the blood.

These findings will be further explored by Nestlé scientists in a follow-up trial with a larger number of subjects assessed over a longer time period.