Saturday, March 14, 2015

Healthy Whole Grains! A new study...

Whole grain/high-fiber intake basically does nothing for you, so says this study: Increased whole grain consumption does not affect blood biochemistry, body composition, or gut microbiology in healthy, low-habitual whole grain consumers.

Every once in a while, I see a paper that makes me chuckle.  This was one (thanks, Tod!).  This study set out to see what amazing benefits they could get by increasing the fiber in a group of normal American eaters who were eating about 28g of whole grains daily prior to the study.

In two 6 week intervention arms, the study groups ate a low-fiber diet with 0g per day of whole grains, and then the same diet, but with 168g of whole grains.  Result:  Nothing here to see.

Nope, nothing.

(From paper linked above.  RG - Refined Grain. WG - Whole Grain
 The only thing of interest is in the first line, Alkylresorcinols...never heard of it!  Turns out it is just a marker:

The increased WG intake during the WG arm of the study was accompanied by an increase in plasma alkylresorcinols, which are present in rye, wheat, and barley, and broadly fulfill the criteria to act as biomarkers of intake of WG rye and WG wheat.

All this showed is that the 'human lab rats' ate wheat, rye, and barley.  And, the study leaders admit that nearly all of the whole grain intake was from wheat:

In most studies, including the current study, wheat was either the sole or main contributor to WG intake during the intervention. Wheat is high in insoluble and low in soluble fiber, unlike oats, corn, and barley, and it has been suggested that soluble fiber improves glucose metabolism and lowers TC, LDL cholesterol, and BP to a greater degree than insoluble fiber.

Also of surprise to the study leaders--there were no substantial changes in the gut microbiome, particularly the increase in bifidobacteria they were expecting to see, as they explain:

Surprisingly, there were no effects of the WG intervention on the composition of gut microbiota.  Previous interventions using WG maize or barley and brown rice reported increased numbers of fecal bifidobacteria... It could be speculated that processing involved in the manufacturing of the WG foods used in the current study may have resulted in a lower content of indigestible, fermentable carbohydrates than the intact grain and therefore a lack of effect on bacterial populations. 

Gee...ya think?  Let's look closer at these 168g of 'whole grains.' First, how much actual fiber did 168g of whole grains supply?

28 grams per day.

Great, not even the recommended daily allowance set forth by our caring government overlords.  

Here's where this massive amount of fiber was from:

 This chart shows where each gram of whole-grains were obtained, ie. 93g/day from wheat, etc... and then the category it came from, ie, 60g/day of bread. A slice of bread is 15g I believe, so they were eating 4 slices of whole-grain bread, a big bowl of cereal, a plate of pasta, and whole-grain snacks.

That, my friends, is as healthy as one can hope to be on the SAD.  These people weren't eating "whole grains" they were eating food labeled "High in Fiber!" and "A great source of whole grains!"

Remember those days?

And all this to get a measly 28 grams of most non-fermentable fiber...that did nothing for them.

Take-home message:  Most "fiber-added" foods and wheat products labelled "whole grain" do absolutely nothing healthy for you.  You want fiber, you need to look past the food label and get it from places like beans, oatmeal, green bananas, cold/raw potatoes, fruit and various veggies...not pasta, bread, and cereal.

Hope you got a chuckle, too.


  1. When the FDA increased the daily servings on wheat product, Health Canada was asked if they were going to follow suit. Health Canada replied that there were no health benefits to increasing the grains daily servings. So we foreigners never did.

    However, Health Canada still thinks that whole grains are healthy plus our Prime Minister Harper silenced our scientists.


    1. @Nicole
      I've read some really troubling things about Harper's anti - science ways. The guy sounds like a moron. But the business community probably adore him. Quite scary.

    2. @ stuart

      An government system that limits knowledge is on a road to dictatorship.


  2. Those among us who had to go GF or even grain-free years ago probably join me in the massive eye rolling at this kind of report. I never did a single thing that got me healthier faster than switching most of my calories from grains away to almost ANYTHING else!

    For some, grains are merely useless. For others, they are poison. For *anyone*, at least ferment the darned things, as our ancestors did post-agrarian revolution! :D

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. @Terra,
      But I am very curious how microbiome health impacts sensitivity to grains. There seem to be so many people whose allergies (including grain intolerances) disappear when they start feeding their gut the fermentable fiber it's designed for.
      So get some Orafti HP and keep us posted!

    3. Oh I'm a'gettin' Orafti HP - it's on its way as we speak :D

    4. @Terra,
      You know whenever I think of the Belgians, I think of TinTin and his little dog. Sort of eager beavers, in a refreshingly innocent kind of way. But I've got a new respect for them now.

    5. @Stuart,

      I have some Orafti HP at home and am hoping to put it into my daily fiber blend shortly. However, all the studies that I've been able to find seem to suggest that long-chained inulin (such as Orafti HP) feeds relatively fewer amount of microbes compared to e.g. Oraft Synergy1 (blend of FOS and inulin) and also primarily in the distal colon. I'm just curious what you base the superiority of Orafti HP on? I really hope it is great since I now have it at home though :)


    6. @ Bo,
      No idea why it's so good. There just seems to be something magical about the way it promotes fermentation in the colon. I suspect that it might be precisely because it seems to be one of very few fermentable fibers that pays attention to the distal end of the colon. All the others, and resistant starch is probably the worst offender, seem to produce admittedly much more pronounced and in a way 'flashy' - like a fast car- fermentation . But it's all concentrated in the proximal end. I think it's probably no wonder so many people complain of gas and bloating from this feeding the microbiome adventure.
      I venture that the more moderate distally biased fermentation is its star quality.
      It does seem to be the stand out performer in this regard. But there is one other - dextrin. Maybe that's the reason Novartis chose it as the prebiotic in Benefiber. It's considerably cheaper than long chain inulin as well.
      I think we're all a bit leery of mainstream prebiotic fibers. And the recommended dose is pitifully inadequate. Although it produces less fermentation than even Orafti HP, that is easily addressed by consuming much more of it. And like the Orafti, dextrin isn't sweet at all, doesn't gel, and combines into pretty well any food perhaps even slightly better than long chain inulin.
      As is often the case, studies only tell half the story, and far far too often, completely miss the point. See what you think of the Orafti HP, and hopefully dextrin in comparison, in giving due attention to the distal end of your colon.

    7. The Synergy1 is a 50:50 (why do they say that and not 1:1?) mix of the long-chain HP and a very short-chain FOS, which I believe is called P95. I don't remember the numbers, but the short chain part is significantly shorter than regular Inulin.

      So, in principle, Synergy1 will do what HP does plus feed the proximal colon. It's taking two things instead of one.

      For me -and I am guessing Stuart too - we've got the proximal end covered. We want to isolate the distal part. For me, the HP does a great job.

      Stuart used to tease me for my hippy, it-feels-good approach, but I think now he's experiencing it too. It's not easy to describe. The best I can say is that the HP makes me happy. It feels magical. Possibly because it is benefiting bugs in the distal colon that are often neglected, so they are signaling their pleasure.

    8. If you live in the U.S. Jesse, Amazon

    9. Syontix is the only thing that is listed. Is that the product?

    10. Oops , I should have mentioned the brand. Syontix is the one.

    11. @Jesse
      Yes, that is the product.

      @ Wilbur and Stuart,
      Do you take the recommended amount for Orafti HP (from the label) or do you experiment? I am trying for optimal gut flora (whatever that may be) as TMI is good. ;)

    12. I throw away the included scoop and use my spoon. I'm guessing that I take between .75 and 1 tsp twice per day. I need it, but I don't need a lot for some reason. I also take about 1Tbsp x2 of regular inulin, eat lots of raw onion and garlic, etc. experiment, but find what makes you happy.

    13. @ navillus,
      Not sure what the Syontix recommended dose is. Mine isn't Syontix. But I'm using more and more of it. Probably about 2 tbs at the moment.
      I just think it's a remarkable substance I find recommended doses for fibers are reliably wrong anyway..
      And I think probably the rate of fermetation is only part of the story. I just keep hearing reports of gas and bloating from fibers like psyllium which are only moderately, and slowly, fermentable.
      No idea what the rest of story is. Suffice to say we'll know soon enough.
      For now I think anyone interested in resurrecting a broken gut will find it very useful.

  3. Did you see this recently released study? re - grains, carbs, etc

    1. Nice! No I hadn't seen. Here is full text if anyone is interested:
      Cereal Grain Health Properties, Review 2015
      I fully agree that there is "good stuff" in many grains, it's just the way we process them and then add back in non-fermentable pieces to call it "high fiber". That's the stupid part.

    2. Tim you crack me up :D

      In our house we refer to anything industrialized processes come up with as "Food Product." Yeah. If it's got the name 'product' in it, it's not food - it's a sales job!

    3. I'm often wondered about this subject given what I read about the findings of Weston A. Price on *freshly ground* cereal grains that he said helped restore dental health, even repair cavities, in children. I've read bits n pieces of info around talking about grains in much the same way that we think about nuts, seeds, olives, even eggs. Foods that once you break their protective shells start to oxidize, rot, or otherwise degrade in nutritional content. Often this is due to the fatty acids (oils) in them. This is the reason that "processed grains" ... flour... is refined as it is... to remove not only the hard to digest parts but to remove a lot of the oil that would make the flour clump and/or go rancid. I use a cheap coffee grinder to grind up a small amount of barley groats at the time I want to use them. I think this is the way that historically (eg. Egyptians) people used grains - they were stored as the in tact whole seeds not as purified flours. Isn't that the primary purpose of flour sifters which people don't really need to use much anymore?

    4. Granted I'm not suggesting anyone consume a large portion of their caloric intake every day as freshly ground grains. But it probably can be a healthy addition.

    5. I was just thinking... it's funny. We'd never think to store black beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, almonds, etc., in refined powder form and expect them to retain their healthfulness. Well, except perhaps peanut butter and almond butter. But that's exactly what happens with wheat. And then we demonize it as void of nutrition and judge it's whole-food form based on it's refined-food form.

    6. @Brad - agreed, absolutely. If we're going to eat grains, storing them whole until we consume them is the most sensible way to do it. We don't often consider that the most basic processing of foods - grinding, cutting or puncturing them - is the start of a denaturing process, but that's exactly what it is. Letting air contact the oils of whole grains so that they turn rancid is clearly a bad idea when you consider it in that light :D When I was baking gluten-free extensively for my boys, I had a grain mill and ground everything fresh the day I used it (rice and millet principally) partly to save the money (a decade ago gluten-free flours were really pricey) but partly because I'd seen all of us handle freshly ground flours better than store bought ones (unsurprisingly all 3 of us are sensitive to rancid oils - seems like that's got to be part of the grain-intolerance picture).

      There is a practice of chewing whole raw rice for health in several eastern alternative medical practices (I'm spacing on which ones, it's been a while) - both for gut health and for tooth health. How cool that Weston Price saw a similar thing!

    7. Query - Do the fibre powders not degrade over time in storage, or are they refined enough that it's not an issue?

    8. I am seeking an answer to the same question..also proper storage, shelf life, etc.

    9. I don't think there is anything to 'degrade' per se, there are no oils or proteins. These fermentable fibers, at least the natural ones (RS, inulin, FOS, GOS) are storage organs of the plant. They are designed by nature to last a long time.

      My only concern is that humidity can ruin them. I made a batch of homemade potato starch and didn't dry it thoroughly. Two days after putting it in a glass jar, it was completely riddled with black and green 'mold' spots. No idea what was growing in there, but now I keep all opened bags or bottles of fiber in my freezer and just put out enough to last a couple weeks.

      I have never had any issues with store-bought fibers/starches going bad in my pantry, but I do think that if you live somewhere very humid you run the risk of ruining a batch of fibers.

      I saw someone talking about using the little pouches of silica gel...great advice!

      One company said their starches will last for years in the bags they come in when properly stored. "Properly storing" is probably not "opened in your cupboard" or "lying on the garage floor."

    10. Brad - great discussion! Thanks. I have become quite a fan of steel cut oats. They seem much more "whole" than they rolled oats. I've been meaning to try oat groats as well, but the buckwheat groats are great!

    11. @Tim - ah yes, of course, storage organs. It was their prebiotic nature that made me wonder if bacteria could thrive in them if they were at all contaminated.

      One thing I'll say about sunchoke tubers (my inulin supp!), if I store them with a bit of soil still clinging and make sure they're dry they last forever in a cool place. A wee bit of moisture and they'll sprout, of course.

      They ferment super well too, and seem to keep their inulin, which makes it a breeze to eat some every day.

    12. @ wildcucumber,
      I've been told that you can make anything carbon based last indefinitely (no joke, thousands of years) keep it completely dry and free of oxygen. Silica gel will do the first, and those little oxygen absorbing sachets you get in long life flatbread sleeves etc.. will do the second. The oxygen sachets will have to be replaced every hundred or so years (depending on how often you open the container) , and the silica gel sachets should be 'recharged' in the sun for a few hours a couple of times a year (again more or less if you live in a humid climate and/or open the container a lot.

      Thousands of years old seeds found entombed siill sprout. And the afterlife of perished Egyptian pharaohs was well provided for - some of which, like oils in stoppered bottles was still found to be good to use when the tomb was plundered afterwards.

    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    14. Good points, Stuart - Great points, actually.

      The highest level I have seen authenticated is about 135g of inulin-like fibers eaten by desert dweller who were eating cactus pads/fruits, wild onions, pollen, and agave. These folks was some kind of HONGRY.

      Contrast that with the low, low fiber intake of the civilized folks of modern time getting less than 10g of fermentable fibers.

      I do like to think there is a useful upper limit as well as an effective lower limit.

      The difference of a baby, is that their immune system is still being grown and trained, so possibly need a higher amount of fiber percentage.

      I guess I could then argue that most people, weaned onto a low fiber diet, have guts that need a big boost that only fiber can provide. But beyond that, I like to think the sweet spot, or Goldilocks amount, is going to be well above the current intake, but less than what paleo desert dwellers subsisted on out of necessity.

      So, I'm thinking the lower limit is probably 20g and upper somewhere near 50g. And I'm just talking about fermentable fiber...there's probably also a need for an extra 20+g of non-fermentable fibers, too.

      But, I am thoroughly enjoying watching you guys mega-dose fiber. I did a spell of 100g/day for several months and have to say their was a definite increase in, um, fecal weight, that I didn't particularly enjoy. But at 30-50g/day seemed just right for me.

      This stupid low carb thing I'm doing right now is just the opposite. Straining to get anything out and then feeling like I 'need to go' a couple hours later. No way this is healthy!

    15. Tim.
      The colon size of infant humans is the same proportion to their body size as it is for adults. And babies get 25 g a day of fermentable fiber in breast milk
      So an average 3.5 kg baby is about a 20th of the weight of an average human not overweight adult.
      So doing the math, why do you think 50gm of fermentable fiber is the ideal amount for adults.?
      Assuming that the studies would all have been done on humans that have been chronically starving their microbiomes since being weaned, do you think it's possible that this 50g amount is actually very conservative?.
      Granted, the humans who never even get to 50g are always going to be a cash cow for the healthcare system, not to mention willing disciples of paleo, low//high carb,low/high fat, low vegetarian/,carnivore or whatever kooky dietary theory is doing the rounds
      But perhaps we are setting our sights way too low.
      Babies are just little humans after all. Why do they need proportionally
      more (with respect to normal BMI) fernentable fiber than adults do you think?
      Also I'm beginning to realize that even if you do 'push it' (grin and bear the discomfort of ramping up your fermentable fiber intake) it is still necessarily a very slow process (as in at least a couple of years.) What study is ever going to be able to follow a process of gradually increasing your fermentable fiber intake over that time frame.?
      Yet we have the clear evidence that babies and ancestral living humans (the Hadza for example) get considerably more than 50g and thrive.
      Sorry Tim, I noticed some typos.
      But since you are so quick off the mark, do breast fed babies have an inpressive fecal volume? I was under the impression that it was less than formula fed infants

    16. @ Tim
      Actually I find the whole fecal volume thing about fermentable fiber fascinating. If a fermentable fiber is actually fermented properly it will produce SFCA's which are in turn consumed. Net result, more bacteria sure, some of which get old and die.
      I definitely have more poop consuming 100gms fermentable fiber than before, but not spectacularly more. I've always got the feeling that it was the non fermentable fiber intake that increases stool volume the most.
      And breast milk doesn't have much non fermentable fiber, But formula does (Theres usually a lot of soy in it isn't there?) Which is why it would be good if someone could chime in who has done both with their kids.

    17. You may be completely right that 50g is just the starting point. The fact that babies get 25g/day kind of tells me that 25g/day is in no way harmful as some like to make it seem. It seems a shame to me that babies are shifted from 25g/day down to around 0 when fed commercial baby food.

      You know, the whole fecal bulking thing is what led to studies in prebiotic fiber. Researchers couldn't figure out how certain fibers caused heavier poop with no absorption of water. It was long thought that the bulking action was caused by fiber acting as a sponge.

      It would be really, really awesome to see some studies with people eating high amounts, 50, 100, 150g/day of various fibers, and long-term, not a measly 4 days.

    18. Stuart, in regarding to breastfed babies (I've had two kids so not a monstrously huge number): kid number one was not remarkable in the poop department. She pooped more than once per day. Kid number two settled in to pooping once a week. I'd know when the Friday Afternoon Blowout was imminent. Just spread a diaper under her and held up her legs by her ankles. She'd 'fill' three diapers. But then she'd get a bath and smell sweet for days later.

      Until they were 100% breastfed the poo didn't stink. It was mustard yellow, and soft. After they started to eat food and got a mix of formula (no soy in it) and breastmilk, the poop smelled bad and they both produced daily.

    19. Strange kids you had, Gab. Mine were: sleep, wake up, breastfeed, poop, stay awake, fall asleep, repeat.

    20. yeah, but Gemma it's great when a baby only poops once a week and it's always on Fridays at 3 p.m. LOL!

      Kid number one was/is a strange being. She went lactose intolerant after her vaccinations. I had to feed her soy formula for 2 weeks and then put her back on breastfeeding. Lots of pumping happening. I had no idea until I did it that I was producing 30 ounces per day! The freezer was full. She looked like a baby version of Winston Churchill by 3 months.... don't need to wonder why. LOL! Definitely I had no problems producing. Ever. I ended up putting the milk in my tea and the husband was drinking glasses full. Talk about being a dairy bar! What the hell can someone do with it all?

  4. @Stuart - indeed! Which is why I've been letting my appetite guide my food choices in recent weeks, once it started making choices that were clearly based on food desires, rather than dysbiosis cravings, yk? If it's telling me to try out fermented wheat...that's a sensible request to entertain :D Kind of...a transmutation of a life-long gluten craving that did nothing but make me ill, into an interest in a balanced intake of an much more bioavailable form of the same food. So, I'm going with it :D So far so good - my usual gluten symptoms are vastly reduced. It's really impressing me. Eating gluten would usually give me: non-healing cyst-like sores (scalp & lower back), joint pain, post-nasal drip, generalized inflammation, brain fog...and a desire to eat more and more of it until I was eating nothing but wheat. None of those things are happening. I do have a ferocious outbreak of eczema that started when I started taking Prescript Assist. I have TCM diagnosis reasons to believe that this is a good thing, not a bad one. So I'm letting the eczema run its course for a time, without worrying about it too much.

    This is the first time in a life-time of gluten sensitivity that my body's response to eating wheat has changed for the better. I'm fascinated (and kind of terrified :P). I'm sitting back and watching.

    Whatever the mechanism occurs by which one cannot tolerate grass grains (gut bugs, blood type-specific food requirements, missing enzymes - we're spoiled for choice here!), there seems to be no doubt that creating a super robust gut allows us to exploit a much wider variety of foods. This was an enormous advantage as an adaptation for primal man! Bringing our guts back up to that level of robustness is kind of mind blowing in its application :)

    1. Terra, that's wonderful news!

    2. Thanks Wilbur! It's wild, man - and it's only the beginning :)

      I'm restraining myself from running around like a fermented fiber evangelist...but only just :D

  5. What bothers me most is that people like me [healthcare] just fell into line--until personally hit over the head. The people doing research and managing patients just fall into line. And people just get sicker and act like there's nothing to do. And money is actually being spent on this research of bread, cereal, and processed goods. Hmph. Thanks for the article and the great conclusion.--Terri F

    1. Thanks for the note, Terri - I had wondered if you'd try posting again after having so much trouble before.

      I know exactly what you mean about healthcare professionals and their lousy advice. When I was full-on with metabolic syndrome, my docs kept harping at me...'whole grains, lean meat, get your heart-rate up, and take ALL of these pills!'

      What it took was NO grain, fatty meat, and strength training. After that, I needed none of their pills. And all they could say was, "Hmmmph."

      If any of you have not been reading The Homeschooling Doctor's blog, please do. Always great advice.


    2. I can't agree with that enough, Terri F. I grew up in an allopathic medical household, and it wasn't until I started getting even sicker in my 20s and entered the periphery of alternative health care as a practitioner, that I began to understand that I WAS sick - and not just a lazy person or a malingering patient or [insert other dismissive descriptors here!].

      I've been chasing down the factors that destroyed my health, one by one, for the past 20 years since that realization. How many doctors did I see as a child for symptoms that are easily identified by alternative medicine, and were dismissed by conventional? Many.

      But hey - as more docs in conventional medicine have patients showing up on their examining tables who are *making themselves better*...more docs are starting to question the medical dogma. Same with docs who become ill and then go through the baffling and angering process of being dismissed by their fellow medical professionals as malingering/lazy/hypochondriac/etc...and get angry enough to seek answers and healing outside allopathy.

      I tip my hat to you for getting outside the box :)

    3. [as an addendum I feel I must add - nobody saves lives in acute emergencies like allopathy! They kick ass and take names when you're bleeding out or drowning in your own lungs or whatever! When my youngest went into respiratory distress (symptoms I'd been trained to recognize by alternative medicine training - because *we* know when to call *them* and respect what they do...), you bet I called 911 without hesitation.

      But for wellness medicine? They're out of their area of expertise. I just wish they'd *admit* the limits of their knowledge, rather than judging everything outside their knowledge-base to be quackery. Sigh.]

  6. @ Terra

    I totally agree. For me, I've always had great doctors. People who really care BUT the medical system is just not into prevention especially through diet. Prevention is not their job, believe it or not. And it must be acknowledged that some people want a quick fix without changes to their lifestyle.


  7. @Tim, I also store some "seeds" in the freezer. 1kg packages of crushed peanuts that I buy come in vacuum sealed bags... after opening them I store them in the freezer to avoid mold growth. They also somehow taste better frozen, or it's just my imagination. Hard core Paleo legume fear be damned - peanuts are loaded with nutrients!

    1. Oh, and like other nuts, besides being high in slowly digesting protein, they don't spike blood glucose and turn off glucagon and lipolysis ;-) Good physique food especially for snacks.

    2. Btw Tim, separate topic but.... as you know I'm somewhat of a wannabe over-the-hill bodybuilder. I recently combined an old Vince Gironda BB recommendation from the 60's with one of your favorite topics - raw potato starch. Vince's protein supplement "shake" was basically raw eggs and cream (or half n half). Mine is the same but also includes RPS, gelatin powder, dried whole milk, and cinnamon. I think it works better than any man-made whey protein. I'd prefer to use raw/unpasteurized liquid milk and cream but cannot find any near me. All they have here is UHT milk which is shit, so I just use the powdered milk. I'm beginning to think that lactose has some benefits unique from other types of sugars - if it is tolerated - which it is for me (Germanic ancestry). This stuff is nectar to me. It even seems to lessen muscle soreness. I've been eating copious amounts of raw eggs for two years now with nary an issue of problematic bacteria. In two years, knock wood, I think I've had two minor sore throats that quickly went away. Some day you should research and write about egg yolks - natures vitamin pills.