Do Refined Grains Have a Place in a Healthy Dietary Pattern: Perspectives from an Expert Panel Consensus Meeting

Overall Findings of the Expert Panel Discussion:

  1. Whole grains and refined grains can make meaningful nutrient contributions to dietary patterns.
  2. Whole and refined grain foods contribute nutrient density.
  3. Fortification and enrichment of grains remain vital in delivering nutrient adequacy in the American diet.
  4. There is inconclusive scientific evidence that refined grain foods are linked to overweight and obesity.
  5. Gaps exist in the scientific literature with regard to grain foods and health.

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Consensus Statement Overall Findings

Consensus statements derived from an expert panel roundtable event:

  1. Grain foods make meaningful nutrient contributions to US dietary patterns. In particular, both whole and refined grain foods can play a role in helping deliver shortfall nutrients to the American population.
  2. Grain foods are meaningful contributors of nutrient density in the American diet in both children and adults, with particular emphasis on ready-to-eat cereals, breads, rolls, and tortillas.
  3. Grain foods can contribute nutrient adequacy in the US diet of children and adults.
  4. Currently with US typical dietary patterns, a large percentage of children and adults are not meeting recommendations set forth by authoritative dietary guidance. Removing portions or all of certain whole and refined grain foods from the diet can further exacerbate nutrient inadequacies in US children and adults.
  5. Removing refined grains from the diet results in more children and adults falling below recommendations for shortfall nutrients as identified by the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  6. Available scientific evidence from observational studies does not support the notion that refined grain consumption is linked to increased risk of overweight and obesity.
  7. Limiting consumption of indulgent refined grains, due to contributions of calories, added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, is necessary within dietary patterns.
  8. Evolving dietary guidance needs to evaluate emerging grain research to address the nutritional relevance of certain refined grain foods within dietary patterns.
  9. The current categorization of refined grain foods may need further delineation, particularly because current evidence suggests differences in nutrient contribution from breads and cereals in comparison to indulgent grain foods such as cakes, cookies, and pies.
  10. Future research should consider distinguishing different types of refined grain foods with the goal of potentially creating an additional classification of grains that goes beyond the terms “whole” and “refined”. For example, dietary pattern–focused research needs to separate refined grains (i.e., breads and cereals from cakes, cookies, and pies) when assessing nutrient intake, diet quality, and health-related outcomes.
  11. Future research should consider repeating currently available analyses with epidemiological-based databases other than NHANES. For example, the expert panel recommends conducting analyses using large cohorts, including the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professional Follow-Up Study, in which refined grains are further distinguished (i.e., refined grain categories need to differentiate between breads and cereals and cakes, cookies, pies, etc.).

Supporting Research Studies

Grain Foods in US Infants Are Associated with Greater Nutrient Intakes, Improved Diet Quality and Increased Consumption of Recommended Food Groups

November 2019 / Nutrients Papanikolaou Y, et al. A recently published study highlights the importance of grains as part of a healthy infant diet – and the potential risks of excluding them.

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Do Refined Grains Have a Place in a Healthy Dietary Pattern: Perspectives from an Expert Panel Consensus Meeting

Although dietary guidance recommends increasing consumption of whole grains and concurrently limiting consumption of refined and/or enriched grain foods, emerging research suggests that certain refined grains may be part of a healthy dietary pattern.

See Study →