Bad news for rice lovers: a new study says refined cereals and sweets are just as harmful to the cardiovascular system.
The study, which looked at the eating habits and health histories of Iranians, says the risk of premature coronary heart disease from white rice is similar to that from “unhealthy sugars and oils” found in sweets.
The study followed a group of 2,500 people, some with normal arteries and some with coronary heart disease. Each participant answered a food frequency questionnaire to determine how often they ate whole grains and refined grains.
The researchers found that the incidence rate of premature coronary heart disease was higher in those who ate processed grains than in those who ate whole grains.
Grains are “refined” when they are processed into a flour or meal, which gives them a finer texture and longer shelf life, but removes some key nutrients.
But whole grains, such as brown rice, oats and wholemeal bread, contain the whole grain. Refined grains are broken down quickly by the body because they lack fiber, which causes spikes in blood glucose levels after meals, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Over time, high glucose can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart, causing plaque to form inside the vessels. That’s why a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and fish is recommended to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study will be presented at an American College of Cardiology Middle East conference in Dubai from Friday to Saturday in conjunction with the Emirates Society of Cardiology.