How Important is “Whole Grain” and “Low Gi” for Heart Disease?

How Important is “Whole Grain” and “Low Gi” for Heart Disease?


While scrolling through social media news feeds (yes, we know you are) we can find tons of headlines with “nutrition facts”, with different market brands using questionable sources to prove the “quality” their products. “Whole grain” and “Low GI” is one of them. But how beneficial is it for our health?

Whole Grain And Heart Health

A systematic review reveals that low GI and whole grain products aren’t must in our daily diets. While these products generally are linked to lower rates of heart disease, lower blood pressure and better blood fat profiles, these “links” as so called associations, meaning people who eat whole grain foods have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes.

This does NOT mean that whole grain foods is the reason behind the lowered risk, rather it means the “whole grain group” have something making them less likely to have heart disease than the “non-whole grain group”. It could be that the “whole grain group” exercise more, smoke less, eat less calories and much much more. To know what effect whole grains have on heart disease, we need a different type of study; an experimental study.

Minimal Effects of Whole Grain vs Placebo

A systematic review is a structured way of authors presenting how they search for studies “systematically”, reducing the risk of studies being “cherry picked” to serve an agenda. The authors here picked out only reliable experimental studies (randomized control trials, which prove what causes what) and found minimal or even no differences “Whole Grain” or “Low GI” groups compared to placebo.

Observational Studies Are Less Reliable

Most conclusions on the benefits of GI foods were actually based on observational studies (less reliable studies showing “links” without knowing what causes what), often sponsored by “brand” companies and had methodological errors (calculation, data collection, follow up).

Don’t Just Look at “Whole Grain”

According to these findings we can say that there is lack of evidence for Low GI, whole grains consumption to lower cardiovascular disease deaths incidences. There is also questionable effect on if there are any long term benefits. Therefore we suggest to look at the bigger picture when judging food quality, and not just choose foods based on “Low GI” or “Whole grain” marketing.

Whole Grains and Nutrients

Even though there is limited evidence when it comes to heart disease, proper whole wheat products are still packed with micronutrients like iron, magnesium and vitamin E. Therefore we still suggest you to eat these products in the form of whole foods. However, the “whole wheat” version of pre-packaged foods does NOT per definition make them healthy! There are many more factors to consider. We teach you more about how to judge if a food is healthy or not in our book Diet Like a Doctor for those of you who have read it.

Potatoes are a perfect example of a higher GI food which is very healthy!

Sources (DOI):

  1. 10.1002/14651858.CD004467.pub3
  2. 10.1002/14651858.CD005051.pub3

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