Whole grains: valuable substances for health

30/01/2022

Whole grains: valuable substances for health 

07/12/2021 November was a crucial month for the enhancement of whole grains in Italy and in the world with a series of events that saw the prevention and protection unit of the National Research Council at the forefront in close collaboration with other structures of the organization, such as the Institute for Bioeconomy (Cnr Ibe) of Bologna and the Institute of Science of Food Production (Cnr-Ispa) of Bari and with the Italian Society for Cardiovascular Prevention (Siprec), with the Mediterranean Diet Foundation (Fdm) , with the European Heart Network (Ehn) of Brussels and the Whole Grain Initiative (Wgi) of Vienna.

An incorrect diet contributes, through the well-known consequences on the main cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, arterial hypertension, obesity), to those cardiovascular events (myocardial infarctions and cerebral strokes) which, alone, constitute 20% of the deaths of Europeans that occur before the age of 65. "But these deaths - points out Stefania Maggi, of the Neuroscience Institute of the Cnr of Padua, as well as president of the Fdm - which we can rightly consider premature, are largely preventable also through a healthy diet, which, once again, above all it means Mediterranean diet ". In fact, the Mediterranean diet continues to represent an essential point of reference given the many demonstrations of effectiveness in the prevention of diseases. In this regard, however, it is appropriate to underline an aspect that concerns one of the pillars of healthy nutrition, cereals. If bread, pasta, rice, polenta, couscous are the basis of the healthy food pyramid and must be consumed daily, it is also true that the evidence suggests that we must definitely prefer wholemeal ones. "Whole grains - continues Maggi - in addition to being, like refined ones, a source of complex carbohydrates, proteins and B vitamins, they stand out because, unlike the latter, they are also rich in fiber, phytosterols and antioxidants such as vitamin E, lignins and mineral salts such as magnesium and selenium ". And, if thanks to fiber, whole grains contribute to reducing hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, overweight, obesity (see their role in reducing absorption of sugars and cholesterol and you see the sense of satiety due to the slowing of gastric emptying) and to prevent colon tumors (see the facilitation of intestinal transit), thanks to phytosterols they reduce the absorption of cholesterol and thanks to the antioxidants they counteract the deleterious action of oxygen free radicals on membranes, mitochondria and DNA.

Countless studies show that with only 50 grams per day of whole grains we can reduce cardiovascular mortality by around 20%, that from cancers over 10% and that from all causes around 15%. "To reach this quantity - says Roberto Volpe of the Prevention Unit of the Cnr of Rome, as well as a representative of Siprec and Ehn - only 3 portions a day are sufficient and, considering that one portion is represented by 3-4 rusks or from 3-4 tablespoons of breakfast cereals or a slice of bread or a plate of 80 grams of pasta or rice, it is understandable that it is not difficult to achieve this goal. Yet, despite the benefits, in Italy, as in many other European countries, we consume only about 10 g of whole grains per day, far from the recommended 50 g per day which, in Europe, are only reached by the Finnoscandian countries, Holland and, recently, also Germany. Therefore, we all have to to commit ourselves to spreading the culture of whole grains and their consumption also in Italy and in other European countries ".

In this regard, the Prevention and Protection Unit of the Cnr of Rome, in close collaboration with other structures of the Cnr such as the Ibe of Bologna and the Ispa of Bari and with the Siprec, the Fdm, the Ehn of Brussels and the WGI of Vienna, has recently participated in a whole series of initiatives ranging from the "7th Whole Grain Summit 2021", to the "Whole Grains: a game changer for public and planetary health" of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021, at "Time4Child", at "Scienza @ Tavola" and at "Nutri-Box" of Cnr, at "Whole Grain and the Mediterranean Diet" of Fdm. "Furthermore - concludes Volpe - equally important is the work we are carrying out at European level on food labeling, so that whole grains are differentiated from refined and enhanced ones, in order to promote an informed and informed purchase by the consumer".

For information: Roberto Volpe CNR - Prevention and Protection Service

roberto.volpe@cnr.it (mailto:roberto.volpe@cnr.it) 


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