It is the refined and processed nature of the foods we eat that underlies many of our chronic health and digestive concerns. To prove this point, I will share numerous studies that compared the long-term effects of eating refined wheat and whole wheat.
Refined wheat has been processed to remove the bran and germ – where the vast majority of oil, vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber are found.
Whole wheat has the bran, germ and endosperm (an ingredient in refined wheat) built-in. While all of these nutrients play a role in the unsung benefits of whole wheat, wheat is particularly loaded with fiber, which may be the reason for much of the differences between whole grains and refined grains.
Much of the dietary fiber of wheat is found in the outer bran. The outer bran is missing in refined wheat, depleting the fiber content by up to 58%. (4) Whole wheat dietary fiber is minimally broken down in the small intestine and most is escorted into the large intestine, where it significantly augments the fermentation process and increases the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA).
In one study, microbial fermentation with increased SCFA production reduced the exposure of potentially toxic compounds to the intestinal skin or epithelium, while also regulating insulin sensitivity and glucose levels. (4)
Increased SCFA production, such as butyric acid in the large intestine from a diet of whole grain and whole wheat consumption, has been linked to a reduction of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and risk of certain cancers. (4)
Whole Wheat Evidence
In one study, a processed food diet was compared to a whole food diet. The whole food diet reduced metabolic syndrome by 141 percent. Metabolic syndrome includes:
- High Blood Sugar
- High Blood Pressure
- Belly fat
- High Triglycerides
- High Cholesterol
- Low HDLs
In the same study, a diet rich in whole grains including whole wheat reduced these concerns by 38 percent.
In another study, 233 volunteers were recruited to compare a refined grain diet to a whole grain diet that included a mixture of whole wheat and oats. The results showed a significant reduction in cardiovascular risk in the whole grain group. They concluded that 3 servings of whole grains a day reduced blood pressure and the risk of coronary disease and stroke by 15 and 25 percent respectively. (2)
Whole Wheat Reduces Weight
A whole wheat diet was compared to a refined wheat diet for 79 overweight, post-menopausal women for 12 weeks. The conclusion was that consumption of whole grain products resulted in a greater reduction in the percentage of body fat. Cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, two important risk factors of cardiovascular disease, increased with the refined wheat group, but not in the whole wheat group, suggesting a cardioprotective role for whole wheat once again. (3)
Those with celiac disease should avoid gluten, and those with severe and/or life-threatening allergies to dairy should avoid dairy, etc. If you have one of these conditions, please follow the instructions of your primary care physician, as ingesting these foods can be dangerous to your health in these situations.