issues and experts

SFU researcher discovers these surprising food sources are more likely to cause heart disease

February 19, 2021

Refined grains are a major contributor to the worlds’ diet, ranging from products like white bread, standard pasta, noodles, even cereals and baked goods. While these foods are a well-known staple, eating too much of them can cause major health problems.

A new study published in The British Medical Journal by researchers including SFU professor Scott Lear found consuming a high number of refined grains is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular disease, stroke and death.

Over 16 years of analysis and out of 137,130 participants in 21 countries including Canada, the researchers found the intake of refined grains and added sugars have greatly increased over the years.

The study found that having more than seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with a 27 percent greater risk for early death, 33 percent greater risk for heart disease and 47 percent greater risk for stroke.

“This study re-affirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods.” says Lear.

What are refined grains?

Refined grains include goods made with refined (e.g. white) flour, like white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers and baked goods. To make refined grains, the endosperm portion of the grain is removed, leading to lower dietary fiber content, little to no vitamins and minerals, and the loss of essential fatty acids and phytochemicals.

No significant adverse health effects were found with eating whole grains (e.g. buckwheat) or white rice.

What should we eat?

The study suggests eating more whole grain foods like brown rice and steel cut oats, and having less refined grains. Reducing one’s overall consumption of refined grains and having better quality carbohydrates is essential for optimal health outcomes.

Whole grain foods have more essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals than any refined grain food. So instead of reaching for a donut at your local coffee shop, try a whole grain food as the healthier option.

Learn more

Learn more about healthy eating on Scott Lear’s website.