Refined Grains Expand Girths
These days, many are like a loaf of bread soft, with one
side round. Their choice of bread may be part of the reason. Some
researchers say white bread and other refined grains seem to go
to the gut and hang out as belly fat.
"Waist circumference was very much
associated with this high-refined grains pattern," said Katherine
Tucker, an associate professor of nutritional epidemiology at
Tufts University in Boston. She and other scientists are studying
what happens to the bodies of people who eat lots of refined bread.
The researchers have tracked the
eating habits of a group of healthy, largely middle-age people
in Baltimore. The focus is on 459 people with a variety of eating
habits. Some prefer refined grains; others favor whole grains,
fruits and vegetables.
Refining removes the fibrous bran
and oil-rich germ, leaving the sweeter endosperm, the whitish-colored
meat of the kernel.
The Tufts researchers say calories
from refined grains like to settle at the waist.
The belt size of the white bread
group expanded about one-half inch a year, which probably put
some of the research subjects into a larger size of pants over
the three years they were tracked, Tucker said. At the end, the
white bread group had three times the fiber group's gain at the
It is not surprising that the waists
of refined-grain eaters expanded, said Dr. David Ludwig, director
of the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston.
Ludwig was not connected to the
Tufts study, but his research involving younger adults had found
something similar. One of the factors he checked was the waist-to-hip
ratio whether people's torsos were more tapered or more
round. People who ate less fiber were rounder.
Waist size is important for health
as well as looks.
A person with a bigger gut has
a higher risk of heart disease than a person who weighs the same
but who does not carry extra weight around the belly.
Why that is and why refined grains
would send more calories to the gut are a mystery. The Tufts researchers,
who published their data in June of 2003, are seeking answers.
Their theory is that it is linked
to the ease in which the body breaks down carbohydrates in the
endosperm into simple sugars. When sugars flood the body, insulin
levels rise to help pull the sugars out of the bloodstream and
store them in cells, often as fat.
"I think abdominal fat cells may
be more sensitive to insulin's effects than other fat cells in
the body," said P. Kristen Newby, lead author of the Tufts study.
For consumers, white versus whole
grain is not necessarily an either-or choice. About 70 percent
of households have a white bread eater and about the same percentage
have a whole wheat eater, according to a February report by the
Mintel Group, a market research firm in Chicago.
Curbing carbohydrates as a way
to rein in the insulin response is an important rationale for
popular carb-curtailing diets such as the Atkins and South Beach
plans. As a result, dieters are giving up refined grains.
Outside a Giant supermarket in
Reston, Va., Pete Krone of Oak Hill, Va., said the South Beach
diet took him from the farthest-out notch on his belt to the closest-in,
and is pushing him toward a smaller belt. Cutting back on refined
grains was a big part of it, he said.
"The South Beach diet gets rid
of what's known as the bad carbs the high-sugar carbs,
which would be white bread, potatoes, starches, pasta and
gradually replace it with wheat bread, (and) cereals that are
higher fiber," Krone said. "What went first was the fat around
While it appears that people who
eat more refined grain products can wind up needing bigger belt
sizes, more studies will be needed to prove it, Newby said.
This caution was echoed by Cathy
Nonas, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and
director of obesity and diabetes at North General Hospital in
New York City.
"We have to be careful about how
we translate this information," she said. "We do not have enough
Meanwhile, even people who chew
lots of whole grains find it hard to give up the white stuff.
"Don't you think you need white
bread for a BLT?" said one whole wheat fan, Marykate Dougherty
of Arlington, Va., who was at the Great Harvest Bakery in Herndon,
Va. "There are certain things that you got to have white bread
On the Net:
Government background on fiber:
Reference Source 89