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Many of us grew up on Kellogg’s Cornflakes for breakfast thinking it was a whole grain healthy choice. When I was growing up, we couldn’t eat them without a sprinkle of sugar or two, and having just one bowl was a task! Years later, corn was identified as a GMO food and most health conscious folks avoided cornflakes like the plague.
Today, non-GMO organic cornflakes are making a comeback, along with almond milk as part of a healthy gluten and dairy-free breakfast. However, a new study may make you think twice before pouring your next bowl of cornflakes.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology compared four different breakfasts between 56 volunteers. They measured the effects of each volunteer’s breakfast choice on the health of their endothelium, which is the skin that lines the arteries. (2)
The lead researcher, Dr. Michael Shechter, believes that the health of the endothelium can be traced to almost every disorder and disease in the human body. (1) He called poor endothelium health the riskiest of risk factors. (1)
The four breakfasts were:
- Cornflakes with milk
- A pure sugar mixture
- Bran flakes
- Water (placebo)
Over four weeks, Dr. Shechter measured the dietary impact on the endothelium using “brachial reactive testing” on each group. The test uses an arm cuff, like those used to measure blood pressure, which can visualize arterial function and endothelial impact in real time.
The Dramatic Results
Prior to the meals, all four groups had the same arterial function. After all the meals except the water (placebo) meal, they all had reduced arterial function. According to the study, after a high-glycemic meal the arteries dilate significantly for several hours, which damages the endothelium. Enormous peaks indicating arterial stress were found in the high glycemic index groups: the cornflakes and sugar groups. (1,2)
Over time, this type of arterial dilation can decrease the natural elasticity of the arteries. Researchers have long known that both heart attack and sudden death risk increases after binging on a sugary meal. They have also known that a decrease in arterial elasticity is a measure of heart health, but they never knew what caused the lack of arterial elasticity until this study.
This landmark study was the first to link high glycemic foods (sugar) to arterial dilation, endothelial damage, cardiovascular event risk and sudden death.
Be careful if you are eating a gluten-free diet – many of these foods have hidden sugars that damage the endothelium. Foods like cornflakes, white bread, French fries, and sweetened soda all put undue stress on our arteries. Dr. Shechter says to stick to breakfast foods like oatmeal, fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, which all have a low glycemic index. Exercising every day for at least 30 minutes, he adds, is an extra heart-smart action to practice.