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Switching to wholegrains offers healthcare savings

Swapping three serves of refined grain foods for wholegrain foods can reduce rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Photo: GLNC

New research findings published in the international journal Nutrients in June have shown that simply swapping refined grain foods for wholegrain alternatives could provide healthcare savings in Australia of more than $1.4 billion annually.

The research by Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council dietitians Dr Sara Grafenauer and Jaimee Hughes, and an expert from Kuwait University is the first study to quantify the healthcare savings associated with meeting the daily target intake for wholegrains in Australia.

The research calculated savings in healthcare costs and lost productivity linked to reduced rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes where Australians swapped three serves of refined grain foods for wholegrain foods. Eating three serves of wholegrains daily reduces the risk of heart disease by 13 per cent and type two diabetes by 32 per cent.

Diets low in wholegrains are the second leading dietary risk factor for disease and death in Australia, with recent data showing that only 27 per cent of Australians meet the daily target intake, which recommends consumption of 48 grams of wholegrain foods per day. If 50 per cent of people were to meet this target, it would result in savings of $734 million. If 100 per cent of Australians achieved the target, the savings would be more than $1.4 billion.

Grains and grain-based foods are a key food category in dietary recommendations because they provide 60 per cent of global energy intake, as well as a range of important nutrients and dietary fibre. As in other parts of the world, many Australians fall short of the suggested dietary targets included in national dietary guidelines. However, wholegrain food consumption is rarely a focus.

These findings could have substantial implications for policymakers in Australia and substantial benefits for those involved in the grains supply chain.

A focus on consuming the two largest sources of wholegrains in Australia (breakfast cereals and breads) could help people meet dietary recommendations with minimal changes to their eating habits.

A simple swap to wholegrain options could have a powerful impact on individual health, as well as the Australian economy.

More information: Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council

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