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Whole grains to protect the heart

Whole grains to protect the heart

October 25, 2022
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Eating refined grains such as white bread, white pasta and white rice not only increases the long-term risk of developing diabetes but also cardiovascular disease. Instead, choosing to consume whole grains has been shown to protect the heart. This emerges from a very recent scientific research that was presented by a group of Iranian researchers at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Middle East 2022 together with the 13th Emirates Cardiac Society Congress, held in Dubai between 7 and 9 October 2022 ( Gaskarei et al, ACC Middle East 2022 Together With 13th Emirates Cardiac Society, 2022).

Premature coronary heart disease, what it is and what are the risk factors

Coronary heart disease is a common condition in which the coronary arteries struggle to bring blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart in sufficient quantities. This is caused by inflammatory phenomena and by a deposit of cholesterol plaques on the walls of the arteries that, over time, shrink more and more. At first, coronary artery disease may present without symptoms but, over time, as plaque buildup increases and the artery narrows further, chest pain may be felt, in what is called angina, even up to develop a heart attack. When this coronary heart disease affects young people, therefore under the age of 55 for men and 65 for women, it is called premature coronary heart disease. Several factors contribute to the development of premature coronary heart disease, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. Diet also plays a role in the onset of this disease. In particular, as demonstrated by scientists, the type of consumed grains, refined or whole, seems to have great importance in determining cardiovascular risk. But let's understand better.

The action of cereals on heart health

Researchers recruited 1168 healthy people with normal coronary arteries and 1369 people with premature coronary heart disease. Volunteers were asked to fill in a questionnaire in order to evaluate eating habits, in particular the intake of refined and unrefined cereals. Well, what has emerged is that a high consumption of refined grains, therefore white bread, white pasta and white rice, increases the risk of developing premature coronary heart disease. Instead, whole grains are associated with a lower risk of developing this condition.


Unfortunately, nowadays, more and more people are choosing to consume refined grains. They are more appetizing, easier to cook and softer. However, the processes they undergo cause them to lose nutrients, the glycemic index increases, requiring the body to make a greater effort to bring blood sugar back within limits. But that's not all, as we've seen, refined grains increase the risk of coronary heart disease even at a young age. A diet that includes high amounts of refined grains, due to its effects on health, is considered similar to a diet high in sugar and fat. Conversely, a diet based on whole grains, which are richer in fiber and nutrients, but also fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish helps reduce cardiovascular risk. So it can be a really good choice to go for whole grain bread, pasta and rice. Whole-grain spaghetti may not turn out as soft as refined pasta, and brown bread will be less airy than a white bread, but they are a healthful choice.

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