Two studies presented last week confirm the benefits of a varied, wholesome diet and call into question the wisdom of low-carb and other fad diets that limit what kinds of foods people can eat.
In one, a team at cereal-maker General Mills found men and women who ate three or more daily servings of whole grain foods were the least likely to be overweight or obese.
In a second, university-based researchers found people who ate a variety of foods were more likely to get the recommended levels of vitamins and other nutrients than people who stuck to a few favourite foods. Both studies were presented by the American Society of Nutritional Sciences (ASNS) at the Experimental Biology 2004 joint conference in Washington.
Other professional associations in attendance included those of anatomists (AAA), immunologists (AAI), physiologists (APS), investigative pathology (ASIP), and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics (ASPET).
Researchers at General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition in Minneapolis looked at 9,000 men and women taking part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes. This nationwide study collects information on the consumption of whole grains, found in packaged cereals, whole-grain breads and crackers. Processed white flour, for example, does not count as a whole grain.
Women who consumed 3 or more servings of whole grain foods a day had a significantly lower body mass index than those who ate less than one serving a day. The trend was similar in men, but not statistically significant. Whole grains may help people feel more full. They are also more nutritious and higher in fibre.
In the second study a team at the University of Hawaii calculated the nutrients in what 10,000 men and women said they ate. The more variety, the more likely they were to reach recommended levels of vitamins and minerals, researchers said. People who ate the same foods over and over were less likely to meet the requirements, they found - even if some of the individual foods were themselves high in vitamins.
Adding variety does not mean eating more food. It means, for example, eating one banana and one orange instead of two bananas. People who meet nutritional guidelines through food, mostly by eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, have lower rates of cancer and heart disease.
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