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Thursday August 31 5:32 PM ET
A spoonful of bran helps the blood sugar go down

By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Lowering the risk of diabetes may be as easy as replacing your daily bowl of sweetened cereal with bran flakes, researchers report.

According to their study in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, whole grain products were protective against diabetes. Women who ate more whole grain products were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than women who consumed mostly refined grains such as pasta or white rice, the study results show.

Because whole grain results in lower levels of blood glucose (sugar), the body does not have to produce as much insulin to process the food, researchers explain.

They note that refined grains result in more than double the amount of sugar in the blood and cause more insulin to be secreted than whole grain products. What's more, whole grains contain vitamins and nutrients that may be important in modifying the risk of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to respond to insulin, the hormone that clears the blood of sugar after a meal and deposits into cells to use for energy. High blood sugar can increase the risk of complications from diabetes such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.

``Our findings suggest that we should clearly distinguish whole from refined grain products,'' according to Dr. Simin Liu of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

He told Reuters Health that consuming as little as two servings a day of whole grain products--equal to a cup of brown rice or two slices of bread--could lower the risk of diabetes by nearly a third.

The researchers followed more than 75,000 women between 38 and 63 years old, for 10 years. At the study's onset in 1984, the participants had not been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease.

According food diaries that the women kept, those who ate the most whole grains had a 38% lower risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. Women who ate the least number of servings of whole grain products a day were 31% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, results show.

Liu said while US dietary guidelines emphasize carbohydrates, as illustrated by the USDA's food guide pyramid, they need to stress the importance of whole grains.

``In most developed countries, cereal grains are generally highly processed before they are used,'' Liu said. ``In the US, only 2% of the 150 pounds of wheat flour consumed per capita in 1997 was whole wheat flour, and the average American gets less than one serving of whole grains a day.

The authors note that women who consumed the most whole-grain products also smoked less, exercised more, had lower body weights and were more likely to take multivitamin supplements.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 2000;90:1409-1415.

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