Wholegrain-rich diet lifeline for struggling health systems, experts say – EURACTIV.com

Experts emphasized their role in preventing major noncommunicable diseases, emphasizing that the promotion of a diet rich in whole grains should play a crucial role in strategies designed to protect struggling health systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stunned global health systems, and with the rise of superbugs and aging populations, pressures on the healthcare industry are unlikely to ease any time soon.

This leaves a big question mark on ways to ensure the economic viability of health systems in the future.

The key for Janne Martikainen, a health economist and professor of pharmacoeconomics at the University of Eastern Finland, is to emphasize preventative measures more strongly.

“If we want to increase the sustainability of health systems globally, we need to move from treatment to prevention, that’s clear,” he argued at a recent event, advocating the need to focus on a holistic approach that takes into account the real costs of healthcare. care.

And according to experts, the answer may partly lie in our diet, particularly whole grain consumption.

Whole grains ‘an essential part of a healthy diet’

In an interview with EURACTIV, Michaela Pichler, general secretary of the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology (ICC), spoke about the importance of whole grains, but also the lack of industry standards, labeling and promotion of whole grain foods.

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Whole grains are any type of grain that is unrefined and instead retains and contains the whole kernel. Panelists said this type of grain is more nutrient-dense than refined grains and offers a range of environmental and health benefits.

Despite strong evidence pointing to the health benefits of whole grains, their EU-wide intake remains low.

The EU’s flagship food policy, Farm to Table strategy, underlines the ‘inadequate’ consumption of whole grain cereals as consumption of red meat, sugar, salt and fat continues to exceed recommendations.

“We need a solution to improve the sustainability of health systems, and whole grains are the solution,” Martainen said, emphasizing that they have “great potential to support the sustainability of the health system.”

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This is because the rich nutritional value of whole grains has been found to help reduce the risk of major noncommunicable diseases.

“According to the evidence we know, we can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer when we increase our whole grain intake,” Martainen said.

Likewise, Roberto Volpe, medical researcher and representative of the Italian Society for Cardiovascular Prevention (SIPREC) at the European Heart Network (EHN), highlighted a recent meta-analysis that concluded that whole grains added only an additional 50 grams per 1,000 kilocalories per day. It has been found to reduce cardiovascular mortality by up to 20% and cancer mortality by up to 12%.

“We can fight many diseases with just a spoonful of whole grains,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Kelly LeBlanc, director of nutrition for the Whole Grains Council, added that because whole grains are more nutrient-dense, they give us “a bigger nutrient explosion for our buck.”

He pointed out that this is good news for both the environment and human health.

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“Therefore, it is unwise to prioritize whole grains as they help us better meet our nutritional needs when trying to decide how to maximize each parcel of land for the best nutritional outcome,” he concluded.

Thanks to the relative cheapness of whole grains, this is also a solution that works globally, according to Saskia De Pee, chief analyst for food and nutrition science at the World Food Program (WFP).

Pointing out that as many as three billion people worldwide cannot afford a healthy diet, De Pee emphasized that fortifying basic foodstuffs can be a cost-effective and culturally appropriate way to ensure that the world’s poorest people have access to healthy and varied diets.

“There are really good examples of whole grains from around the world,” he said, citing historical examples from India and Ethiopia and emphasizing the need to encourage communities to return to traditional dietary patterns to increase their whole grain consumption.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Alice Taylor]



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