Whole Grain vs. Refined Wheat

February 28, 2012

A Journal of Nutrition study found cholesterol and fat-mass benefits from whole grain dieting.

A randomized trial on Danish women adds to the scientific discussion around whole grain products for improving body composition.

Researchers recruited 79 overweight and obese postmenopausal women to consume either whole grain products or refined wheat products for 12 weeks following 2 weeks of consuming refined wheat. Measures of body composition-including body weight, fat mass, and cholesterol-were performed at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks.

“The prevalence of women with features of metabolic syndrome increases after the onset of menopause,” wrote the study’s author, “which is linked with substantial metabolic changes emerging with estrogen deficiency.”

Analysis of both wheat-eating periods determined that changes in body weight did not differ between the two groups. But body fat decreased more in the whole grain group (3%) than it did in the refined wheat group (2.1%). If that difference doesn’t look big to you, consider the 5–6% reduction in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol experienced by the whole grain group compared to zero cholesterol changes in the refined wheat group.

The researchers claim that while published clinical trials on whole grain diets have produced conflicting results on body composition, this study adds to increasing evidence of a beneficial role for whole grains on fat mass reduction.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was supported by the European Commission and the University of Copenhagen.