Not all carbs are bad for you. It depends on the source and your needs. Many whole foods that are high in carbs can also be incredibly healthy and nutritious. Think sweet potatoes, carrots, oats, beets, and blueberries. On the other hand, refined carbs should be limited. Eating refined carbs has been shown to drastically increase risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Now, a new study published in The British Medical Journal, has found that consuming high amounts of refined grains, such as croissants and white bread, is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular disease, stroke and death.
The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study has been examining diets from diverse populations in low-, middle- and high-income countries around the world. The researchers from Simon Fraser University analyzed over 16 years of data from 137,130 participants across 21 countries. Their findings showed that intake of refined grains and added sugars have greatly increased over the years.
Grains were categorized into three groups: refined grains, whole grains and white rice. Refined grains included goods made with refined (e.g. white) flour, including white bread, pasta/noodles, breakfast cereals, crackers, and bakery products/desserts containing refined grains. Whole grains included whole grain flours (e.g. buckwheat) and intact or cracked whole grains (eg. steel cut oats).
The study found that having more than seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with a 27 per cent greater risk for early death, 33 percent greater risk for heart disease and 47 per cent greater risk for stroke.
“This study re-affirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods,” says SFU health sciences professor Scott Lear.
No significant adverse health effects were found with consuming whole grains or white rice.
The study suggests eating whole grain foods like brown rice and barley, and having fewer cereal grains and refined wheat products. Reducing one’s overall consumption of refined grains and having better quality carbohydrates is essential for optimal health outcomes.