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Eating a lot of refined grains may increase risk of heart disease and early death, study finds

Opting for whole grains could lead to better health outcomes for consumers

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Photo (c) lostinbids - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Simon Fraser University is exploring the risks associated with eating large quantities of refined grains, which consist of things like croissants, pastas, cereals, and anything containing bleached white flour.

The team says doing so puts consumers at a higher risk for both cardiovascular disease and premature death. 

“This study reaffirms previous work indicating a healthy diet includes limiting overly processed and refined foods,” said researcher Scott Lear. 

Processed foods harm health 

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. This dataset tracked the diets and health outcomes of more than 137,00 participants around the world for nearly two decades.

The study revealed a clear link between refined grain intake and poorer heart health for the participants -- particularly when they exceeded seven servings of these foods each day. The more refined grains the participants ate, the more susceptible they were to heart disease, stroke, and premature death. 

Of those three primary risk factors, strokes posed the biggest risk to consumers’ health. The study showed that participants who ate seven or more servings of refined grains each day were nearly 50 percent more likely to have a stroke. 

Finding better alternatives

The researchers recommend that consumers think about ways that they can incorporate healthier options into their diets each day. Opting for whole grain alternatives can yield better health outcomes. 

Swapping out refined grains for whole grains -- as well as other health foods like fruits and vegetables -- can reduce the risk of heart disease and give consumers lasting health benefits. 

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