JUST small changes in diet where Australians eat more whole grains could markedly cut incidences of heart disease and diabetes and create massive savings in our healthcare system.
Research by the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) published last week in the international journal Nutrients found that swapping just three serves a day of processed grain foods to whole grains could save a staggering $1.4 billion annually.
These savings come in the form of reduced costs for treating heart disease and type 2 diabetes, together with a drop in lost productivity as a result of sickness.
The GLNC research, done in conjunction with an expert from Kuwait University, is the first study to quantify the healthcare savings associated with meeting the recommended daily target intake for whole grains in Australia.
And the researchers believe the findings could have substantial implications for policy makers and provide strong evidence for further strengthening messaging regarding whole grains in the national dietary guidelines.
Sara Grafenauer, managing director of GLNC, said conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are major health issues in
modern Australia and that raising whole grain consumption would play a big role in lowering the occurrence of these deadly conditions.
"Eating three serves of whole grains daily is known to reduce the risk of heart disease by 13 per cent and type 2 diabetes by 32pc," Dr Grafenauer said.
She said there was plenty of room for improvement in terms of raising whole grain consumption in Australia.
The most recent data shows only 27 per cent of Australians meet the recommended 48g per day daily target intake (DTI).
The average whole grain consumption was 21 grams per day, leaving a gap of 27 grams a day.
"Given we know diets low in whole grain are the second leading dietary risk factor for disease and death in Australia, the outcomes of this study highlight the need for dietary change," she said.
"If 50 per cent were to meet the DTI, there could be $734 million in savings and more than $1.4 billion if 100 per cent of Australians could reach this target," Dr Grafenauer said.
On the positive side she said it was not difficult to boost the consumption of whole grains.
"Three whole grain servings can be easily achieved by swapping grain foods food rather than adding to the energy density of the diet," she said.
Breakfast is a key opportunity for change.
"By focusing on whole grain breakfast cereals and wholemeal bread - the two largest sources of whole grain for Australians - target levels for whole grains could be achieved with minimal change to regular eating habits," Dr Grafenauer said.
"A simple swap to a whole grain option could have a powerful impact on individual health, as well as the Australian economy."
There are a number of products where the GLNC recommends consumers switch to whole grains, including breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, crackers, oats, quinoa and barley.
Dr Grafenauer said next week was a perfect time for consumers to start making the switch to include more whole grain in their diet as it was Whole Grain Week.
"A range of resources are available to help encourage increased whole grain consumption, including a video showing how to swap out refined grains for whole grains, an e-Book with easy-to-make whole grain recipes and a searchable whole grain product data," she said.
The story More whole grains in the diet could save Australia billions first appeared on Farm Online.