Eating This Kind of Grain Increases Your Risk of Premature Heart Disease
Could being heart-healthy be as simple as avoiding a certain type of food? Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight are also heart healthy, along with not smoking and keeping alcohol intake to a modest amount. Chances are you're prioritizing all these smart lifestyle choices to keep heart disease at bay.
But now a new study suggests that just by cutting out processed grains from your diet you could lower coronary health risk even further. Researchers found that the more refined grains people eat, the higher their risk of premature coronary artery disease. The only healthy grains to eat regularly, the study found, are whole grains such as quinoa, oatmeal, and wild rice or whole wheat bread.
The American College of Cardiology conducted the research, which is one of the first studies to examine the correlation between different types of grain consumption and premature coronary artery disease, using data from people living in the Middle East. While previous studies have found a connection between eating refined grains and increased coronary risks, the current study analyzed the connection in more depth and found even more evidence to support staying away from processed flour and other refined grains.
What Is Premature Coronary Artery Disease
Premature coronary artery disease is defined by cardiovascular issues that show up in men under 55 or in women under 65. The study examined 2,099 patients with premature coronary artery disease and compared their cardiovascular diagnoses with how often they are certain foods, as self-reported in questionnaires.
Other risk factors the researchers took into account included smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. When adjusted for all these co-factors, the findings still revealed that there was a significant association between eating refined grains and a higher risk of early onset coronary disease.
"There are many factors involved in why people may be consuming more refined grains as opposed to whole grains and these cases differ between people, but some of the most important factors to consider include the economy and income, job, education, culture, age, and other similar factors," Mohammad Amin Khajavi Gaskarei, MD, of the Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Center and Cardiovascular Research Institute at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Isfahan, Iran said.
"A diet that includes consuming a high amount of unhealthy and refined grains can be considered similar to consuming a diet containing a lot of unhealthy sugars and oils."
Switching. to a diet of mostly whole foods, which is low in animal fat and high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, and avoiding highly processed foods such as packaged or junk food, is known to help improve heart health and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The recent study adds to a host of other studies that have found that the more you eat a diet rich in whole foods (including grains, legumes, and plant-based foods) the healthier you'll be. Just by adding more fiber to your diet, you can keep blood sugar in check and lower your chances of weight gain, insulin resistance, prediabetes, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, the body of research tells us.
The findings will be presented at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Middle East 2022 together with the 13th Emirates Cardiac Society Congress in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from October 7 to 9.
Choose Whole Grains Over Refined Grains
The study also noted that whole grain consumption was inversely related to the risk of premature coronary artery disease. Whole grains are defined as containing the entire grain, whereas refined grains are processed or milled into flour or meal. These findings reflect similar research that shows that whole grain consumption is beneficial for heart disease prevention, including the American Heart Association Guideline on Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.
"As more studies demonstrate an increase in refined grains consumption globally, as well as the impact on overall health, it is important that we find ways to encourage and educate people on the benefits of whole grain consumption," Khajavi Gaskarei said. "Tactics to consider include teaching improved dietary choices in schools and other public places in simple language the general population can understand, as well as on television programs and by continuing to do high-level research that is presented at medical conferences and published in medical journals. Clinicians must also be having these conversations with each other and their patients."
Whole grains help improve healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and help fight obesity. Whole grains consumption has also been shown to help maintain steady blood sugar levels and not cause spikes and crashes. These unprocessed grains contain valuable antioxidants and significant levels of fiber, helping your body's digestive tract burn fat.
Types of Heart-healthy Whole Grains Include:
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Whole wheat
- Whole-grain rye
- Spelt Flour
- Whole-wheat bread
- Whole-wheat pasta
Change Your Diet to Improve Heart Health
This year alone, approximately 700,000 deaths in America will be attributed to heart disease (including stroke). According to the World Health Organization, heart disease remains the top cause of death worldwide, but research concerning dietary solutions could help reduce these deaths everywhere. This September, research suggests that eating less meat and sugary beverages could have the greatest impact on young and middle-aged adults with stage 1 hypertension, adding to several new studies that show how diet can improve longevity.
One study found that adopting a plant-based diet earlier in life can lower the risk of heart disease 30 years later. This research claims eating foods similar to the DASH diet including beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
Eat a Diet Rich in Plant-Based Whole Foods
Switching to a diet of mostly whole foods, which is low in animal fat and high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, and avoiding highly processed foods such as packaged or junk food, is known to help improve heart health and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
This latest study adds to a host of other scientific research that has found that the more you eat a diet rich in plant-based whole foods (including grains, legumes, and leafy greens) the healthier you'll be. Just by adding more fiber to your diet – which is only found in plant-based foods that are minimally processed – you can keep blood sugar in check and lower your chances of weight gain, which can eventually lead to insulin resistance, prediabetes, diabetes, heart disease, and certain digestive cancers, the vast body of research tells us.
Want to incorporate heart-healthy meals into your diet? Check out The Beet's heart-healthy recipes!