The debate between low-carb and low-fat diet advocates took a dramatic turn in January with the American Diabetes Association’s limited approval of low-carb diets as weight-loss aids. Momentum seemed to have shifted to low-carb proponents.
But now a Penn State study has concluded that diets high in whole grains not only help people lose weight, but also stave off diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers tracked 50 obese people, 25 men and 25 women between the ages of 20 and 65 years, who had metabolic syndrome. (Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms, such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and high “bad” cholesterol, that predispose people to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.)
The portly participants were divided into two groups. For 12 weeks, both groups received the same advice on weight loss and exercise. Furthermore, they both consumed five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of low-fat dairy products, and two servings of lean meat, fish, or poultry. The only difference? Every grain the first group ate was refined, like white flour. The other group couldn’t touch a grain unless it was whole, like oatmeal, whole grain cereal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, granola bars, popcorn, and whole-wheat crackers.
By the end of the study, participants in both groups had dropped an average of eight to 11 pounds. However, the whole grain group lost more weight in the abdominal region. Even better, the whole grain group experienced a 38 percent decrease in its C-reactive blood protein (CRP) levels. (CRP is an indicator of vascular inflammation and is considered a precursor to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.) The refined grain group experienced no decrease in CRP levels.
Researchers said that although they are not sure why CRP levels decreased in the whole grain group, the scale of reduction was similar to that seen in patients who use statin drugs.
This study was supported by the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Human Nutrition, and the National Institutes of Health.