The grain-based foods industry could take a cue from the nut industry in its efforts to change the health image of enriched grains, said Richard D. Mattes, Ph.D., distinguished professor of nutrition science at Purdue University. Involving researchers skeptical of industry findings might prove beneficial, too.
“Food science is a field that has gone through some major transitions, hopefully that are approaching the truth, but it takes a sustained research commitment,” Dr. Mattes said in a session Oct. 10 at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas.
Such a commitment will take more than a single $50,000 study, said Julie Miller Jones, emeritus professor of nutrition at St. Catherine University, during the same session. Try research funding that rises into the millions of dollars, she said.
Such commitment paid off for the nut industry, Dr. Mattes said.
“Fifteen years ago nuts were widely regarded as problematic for energy balance and body weight — they are high fat; they are energy dense and clearly should not be part of a diet where people are trying to manage their body weight,” he said.
Then the nut industry funded long-term clinical trials to see if nut intake actually was a bad idea for weight management, Dr. Mattes said. The studies established mechanisms for why nuts do not promote weight gain.
“It has absolutely turned that industry around, and now nuts are viewed as a health food instead of problematic,” Dr. Mattes said.
He added people may be skeptical of studies involving only researchers friendly to industry. Consumers and the mainstream media in those instances may focus more on who funded the studies than on the scientific findings.
“I think it is in your interest to take on partners who are skeptics, people who have a reputation of not being on board,” Dr. Mattes said.
He suggested a study could involve a researcher who shares the view of the baking industry and another researcher who does not.
“Make them do a study together and be honest with the result,” he said.
The impact of such a study might be “far greater,” he said.
Enriched grains have received positive reviews in 2016. For one, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes the following passage: “Most refined grains are enriched, a process that adds back iron and four B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid). Because of this process, the term ‘enriched grains’ is often used to describe these refined grains.”
Also, a study appearing July 25 in Food and Nutrition Sciences found certain grain food patterns are associated with greater 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines’ shortfall nutrients, better diet quality and lower body weights in adults. Additionally, certain grain food patterns are associated with lower intake of nutrients to limit, including saturated fat and added sugars.
The Grain Foods Foundation, Washington, funded the study. Both Dr. Mattes and Dr. Miller Jones belong to the scientific advisory board for the Grain Foods Foundation.
The study was authored by Yanni Papanikolaou, vice-president at Nutritional Strategies, Inc., and Victor L. Fulgoni III, Ph.D., senior vice-president of Nutrition Impact, L.L.C.
Mr. Papanikolaou, who spoke at the IBIE session, said the study found grain-based foods provide such nutrients as fiber, iron, folate and magnesium. He said the data has been presented at meetings around the world, including the International Congress of Dietetics in Granada, Spain, in September.