New US research has found that eating high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains appears to be associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
Carried out by researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the new large-scale investigation analysed data from participants taking part in three existing studies, including 69,949 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, 90,239 women from the Nurses’ Health Study 2, and 40,539 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
The researchers found that when participants replaced calories from saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, animal protein and vegetable protein with high-quality carbohydrates, they appeared to have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Replacing low-quality carbohydrates with saturated fats, although not with other nutrients, was also linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
“High intake of carbohydrates has been suggested to be associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes,” said research team leader Kim Braun, PhD.
“We looked at whether this effect is different for high-quality carbohydrates and low-quality carbohydrates, which include refined grains, sugary foods and potatoes.”
“These results highlight the importance of distinguishing between carbohydrates from high- and low- quality sources when examining diabetes risk,” said Braun.
“Conducting similar studies in people with various socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities and age will provide insight into how applicable these findings are for other groups.”
Braun will present the findings as part of Nutrition 2020 Live Online, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN).
The Mayo Clinic explains that whole grains are either present in their whole form and are single food such as brown rice, or ground into a flour while retaining all parts of the seed (bran, germ and endosperm) and used as ingredients such as buckwheat in pancakes or whole-wheat flour in bread.
Compared with other types of grains, whole grains are higher in fibre and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium. Examples of whole grains include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers.
Whole grains are also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers and other health problems.