Grain Growers Fight Back

Well not the actual growers as such but movers and shakers behind the grain industry will be celebrating over their high fibre bowls of cereal after a World Health Organisation funded piece of research was published in the Lancet yesterday (10.1.19).  Read all about it in the Guardian.

What is the research?

The research is a meta-analysis of over 180 observational studies and 50 clinical trials.  The trials are taken from trials reported in the past 4 decades.  Its analysis found a 15-30% decrease in risk of death and chronic disease amongst people who ate 25-29g of fibre each day.  The study recommends that we should all be eating more healthy whole grains in the form of bread, pasta and beans every day.

This recommendation is in direct opposition to the recent trend of low carbohydrate diets since the recent vilification of sugar and gluten.  The backlash against sugar has affected grain sales – hence the fight back.

What can we say about this study?  Is it as clear cut as it seems?  Should we all quietly put away our low carb cookbooks and get back to eating high carb?

Can we believe it?

First of all, this meta-analysis only looked at studies using healthy people who did not have any chronic illnesses.  Also it didn’t look at how many carbs these healthy people were eating.

Secondly, 180 studies and 50 trials may sound like a lot BUT they are taken from 4 decades worth of research.  Let’s say 5 studies per year and 1 – 2 trials.  We’ve been arguing about diet over those 40 years and waaaaaay more studies exist from which the researchers selected their pool.

Thirdly and possibly most importantly, you don’t have to eat a diet high in bread, pasta and beans in order to achieve 30g of fibre a day.  This fits in with the low carb, high fat diets that are currently popular.

Where can we get fibre from?

CNN included an info-graphic in their report, reproduced here:

Most low carb diets emphasize the need to eat vegetables and low sugar fruits in abundance while avoiding starchy carbohydrates.  Admittedly as a nation we probably need to eat more vegetables so we may well be a bit low on fibre.  Let’s look at the fibre available to us if we are conscientiously trying to pack in the veggies.

The Wahl’s protocol is a diet that recommends 6-9 cups of vegetables and coloured fruits per day.  You aim for 3 cups of leafy greens, 3 cups of cruciferous vegetables and 3 cups of coloured vegetables and fruit – only one of those cups should be fruit.  Using the table above as a guide:

  • leafy greens (using spinach as a guide) – 3×6=18g
  • cruciferous vegetables (not listed but the veg seems fairly samey) 3×6 = 18
  • coloured veg + fruit 3×6 = 18

This protocol would deliver 54g of fibre if all the veg and fruit had about 6g of fibre per cup and we only need 25 – 29g.

Even if we only eat 6 cups a day we are eating more than enough fibre.

Final thoughts

Most people probably do need to increase the amount of vegetables and fruit they eat every day but getting 25-29g of fibre every day is doable on a low carbohydrate diet.  The grain growers are going to have to try again.

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