Diabetes Awareness Month

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and we are highlighting the importance of grains in the diet and their relation, or lack thereof, to diabetes.

Foods we eat can have an impact on our health, but despite the common assumptions that grain foods are associated with a higher risk of diabetes, a commentary written by Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., found that there is no correlation between consuming refined grains and an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). In analyzing the data from multiple studies associating refined grains and T2D, which totaled observations of nearly 400,000 people, Gaesser found that there is no relationship between consuming refined grains and the increased risk of T2D.

The data contradicts the commonly held belief that refined and non-whole grains can directly lead to T2D when consumed. Eating refined staple grain foods, such as breads, cereals, and pasta were not associated with T2D risk, and total grain consumption was consistently associated with lower risk of T2D. Even in studies that included indulgent grain foods such as cakes, cookies, sweet rolls, and muffins in the refined grain food category, observed no associated risk of T2D. 

While these findings may seem surprising after years of criticizing grains, in particular refined grains, there is a simple explanation. Much of the research linking refined grain consumption to T2D risk is based on dietary patterns, which typically categorizes refined grains along with red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, French fries, and high-fat dairy products. It is important to note the distinct difference between the higher-risk categories like red and processed meat and sugar-sweetened beverages, compared with the refined grains category, which is often mistakenly associated with the aforementioned contributors to T2D.

The takeaway…grain foods are much healthier than people give them credit for. It is scientifically proven that you can continue enjoying the Dietary Guidelines of America’s recommended three servings a day of refined grains without worrying about contributing to the increased risk of T2D. Grain foods are the foods we love that love us back!