Grain Eaters Have Lower Body Weights and Smaller Waistlines [Interview][Transcript]

Yanni_Papanikolaou_Grains_ResearchGuest: Yanni Papanikolaou
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Yanni Papanikolaou previously worked for the Kellogg Company as Director of Nutrition Marketing in the USA and Associate Director for Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs in Canada. He holds a Masters of Health Science in Public Health Nutrition and is completing a PhD at University of Toronto focusing on nutrition and brain health.

Segment overview: Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, vice president, Nutritional Strategies, talks about the kinds of grain that are most beneficial to the diet.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, glad that you can join us on the program. Now for the first time researches have evaluated the association between various grain food patterns and nutrient intake as well as health outcomes among us adults here in the US of A and the results found that people who ate certain grain foods have well better overall diet quality. Our guess in studio is returning to talk with us Mr. Yanni Papanikolaou, he’s Vice-President of Nutritional Strategies and he’s with us today to talk about the nutritional benefits of grain and how we can incorporate those grains into our daily diet. Welcome to the Program Yanni.

Mr. Yanni Papanikolaou: Thanks for having on the show Neal.

N: Thank you. Talk about Nutritional Strategies and how Nutritional Strategies is helping get the word out about grains especially since a lot of them have gotten a bad rap of late.

Y: Yeah, well we just completed a study in American adults, in males and females, 19 years of age and older and we looked at identifying, really we wanted to see how do Americans consume their grain foods and how does this relate to nutrient intakes, diet quality and various health measures like body weight and waist size circumference. And what we found was very interesting, it’s that overall grains, certain grain foods are associated with a better diet quality and delivery of various shortfall nutrients in the American diet. So eliminating grains foods in the diet can have unintended consequences on overall health. Specifically we saw, if you look at the various categories of grains, we saw that adults who cereals, eat pasta, cooked cereals and rice and mixed grains have better overall diet quality when compared to those adults that eliminate grain foods from their diet. We saw that people who consume certain grain foods have more fiber, more calcium, magnesium and vitamin D than individuals who chose not to eat grain foods. Now we looked at specific sugar intakes and we saw that those who eat yeast, breads and rolls as their predominant grain source have lower total sugar intake when compared to adults who don’t eat grains. And adults who eat pasta, cooked cereals and rice weigh 7 lbs. less and have smaller waist sizes, 1.2 inches smaller waist sizes than individuals who don’t eat grains. Interestingly, all of the grain patterns that we looked at had higher energy intake, so higher calories throughout the day versus the group that ate no grains but yet we’re still seeing that effect on weight in certain grain categories. We also looked at cakes, cookies and pies and even though cakes, cookies and pies consumers had higher calories throughout the day they didn’t have the increase in body weight or an increase in waist size circumference which would probably surprise many.

N: Many of us, well I’ll just speak for myself, tend to get this I guess pie in the sky attitude when it comes to grains, grains are great let’s just eat them but just not too much. Now I’m understanding that there are certain grains that should be consumed and certain that maybe ought to stay away from, what types of grains can we enjoy without worrying about the science of it?

Y: Well when it comes to grains I have 5 rules that I live by. So first one is choose both whole grains and enriched grains, so these includes things like white bread. Another my second point is fiber, is one of these nutrients that’s in very short supply and 9 out of 10 Americans don’t get enough fiber and it’s been declared a nutrient of public health concern by the US Government. So choose grains that are good or excellent source of fiber. In another study we found that all grain foods when grouped together provide nearly 25% of all fiber consumed in the adult diet, 30% of all folate, 30% of all iron, for 14% of total calories, so these include things like bread, rolls, tortillas, ready to eat cereals, cooked cereals like oatmeal, so the grain food category is quite a nutrient dense category. In another study we found that including indulging grains so things like cakes, cookies and pies you can do so but be smart about it. Remember like calories count, so if you’re staying within your calorie limit and USDA has established calorie limits for various age groups and genders, so it’s important to stay within those. So my advice as an expert is limit sodium, added sugars and saturated fat in the diet but you can include and don’t feel guilty about including grains in your diet. And lastly read the nutrition label and look for grains with more nutrients we need more of. As I said there’s a list of ten nutrients that are in short supply in the American diet, so grains can actually contribute to five of these nutrients so again including grains in your diet is very important as they are nutrient dense.

N: Now among other findings of course you found that the people that just don’t eat grains at all had a bit of a shortfall when it came to some of these nutrients. Let’s talk about some of these nutrients and the importance of them.

Y: Yeah, grain as whole supplies several essential nutrients including things like dietary fiber, B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and minerals like iron and magnesium. So each one of them plays an important role within the diet. If I were to pick one, dietary fiber is a big one, as I mentioned earlier it’s a nutrient of public health concern and it plays a role in heart health, it plays a role in protecting against diabetes, against insulin resistance and a large amount of data has shown that it plays a role in helping maintain weight and helping improve weight loss, so fiber is a key. There was a study published last year from a Harvard group that looked at the consumption of whole grains in cereal fibers and they related that to all causes of death and they found that whole grain consumption was linked to a lower risk of death but when they actually adjusted for the fiber, meaning that they took the fiber out of the equation that association became non-significant. So that saying that it’s not just the whole grain but it’s more importantly maybe the fiber that has a lot of these beneficial effects. So fiber, I can’t stress enough how important fiber is in the diet and grains is a great delivery vehicle for fiber.

N: And where can our listeners go and get more information about Nutritional Strategies?

Y: Well I’m in the process right now of developing a website but other than that there’s a vast amount of resources online available for your audience, dietary guidelines is a great resource, the USDA, the Grains Food Foundation has a fantastic website that answers many of the questions that are frequently asked I’m sure by your listeners. It talks about the different nutrients, the different roles of fiber and of course there’s for your health professionals, there are numerous studies available that have been peer reviewed and scientific journals that they can easily access as part of the public review process.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Mr. Yanni Papanikolaou. Transcripts are available at, also at You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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