According to a study from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, whole-grain products, such as brown rice, oats, corn and barley, are protective against diabetes.
Men who ate the most whole-grain products were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than men who consumed mostly refined grains, such as those found in cookies, donuts, pasta or white rice.
Because whole grain results in lower levels of blood glucose (sugar), the body does not have to produce as much insulin to process the food. Refined (white) grains, on the other hand, result in more than double the amount of sugar in the blood and cause more insulin to be secreted than whole-grain products. Whole grains also contain vitamins and nutrients that may be important in modifying the risk of the disease.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to respond to insulin, the hormone that clears the blood of sugar after a meal and deposits it into cells to use for energy. High blood sugar can increase the risk of complications from diabetes such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.
The researchers looked at the eating and lifestyle habits of nearly 43,000 healthy men for 12 years. Men who consumed the least amount of whole grains, about less than one-half serving per day, were nearly 60% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with men who consumed about 3.2 servings of whole-grains per day.
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