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Whole Grains and Prediabetes
One of the first clinical signs of developing diabetes is what is known as "impaired glucose tolerance." Simply put: after a standard blood glucose test, those who have a blood glucose level that is higher than normal, but lower than that of a person with diabetes, are considered to have impaired glucose tolerance. This often appears in combination with insulin resistance, in which the cells do not respond to the release of insulin. When both of these effects reach a certain level the combination is known as "prediabetes." 

Whole grains reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease
Metabolic syndrome, for those who might not be long-time readers of Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites, is a combination of abnormal lab results and body measurements that, taken together, lead to a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

Whole Grains, Heart Disease, and Diabetes
There's a lot of buzz about whole grains now. Frozen food manufacturers like Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine make a point of touting the amount of "whole grains" in their foods. Boxes of breakfast cereal, loaves of bread - everybody's getting on the whole grain bandwagon.


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More Reason to Get More Whole Grains

Researchers at Johns Hopkins recently published a study which focused on the relationship between eating whole grains, refined grains, or cereal fiber and risk factors for heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86(6):1745-53).

A portion of the participants in a large-scale, long term study completed 7-day dietary questionnaires in addition to yearly measurements of height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterols, and insulin levels. Each subject's intake of whole grains, refined grains, and fiber was measured and standardized to average grams eaten per day.

The researchers found that those subjects who had the highest level of intake of whole grains and cereal fiber tended to have a lower Body Mass Index, weight, and waist circumference than those whose whole grain and cereal fiber intake was the lowest. Indeed, those with the higher intake of whole grains and cereal fiber also tended to have better cholesterol scores and a normal score in a 2-hour insulin reaction test (a common test for diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions).

One particularly interesting finding in this study was that women who had the highest level of intake of refined grains tended to have higher fasting insulin levels - another indicator of a risk of diabetes.

What this means for you

This study supports other studies I've reported on with respect to whole versus refined grains: Whole grains are clearly better for you. One of the easiest ways to get more whole grains in your diet is to switch from foods using refined flours, such as white bread or regular pasta, to those using wheat flour, such as whole wheat breads and whole wheat pastas. Use brown rice or wild rice instead of white rice.

First posted: December 19, 2007