Nutritional Strategies Grains Research [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 of Nutritional Strategies discusses a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Nutrition Sciences, that shows grain eaters have lower body weights and smaller waistlines.

Health Professional Radio – Nutritional Strategies

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program, I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio. Researches have recently found that adults who get most of their grains from pasta, cooked cereals and rice weigh nearly 7 lbs. less and on average have a 1 inch smaller waistline than those who don’t regularly eat grains. Our guest in studio today is Mr. Yanni Papanikolaou, Vice-President of Nutritional Strategies and he’s with us in studio today to discuss a recent study published in the peer reviewed journal Food Nutrition Sciences that shows that grain eaters have lower body weights and smaller waistlines. Welcome to the Program Yanni.

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

N: Thank you. Tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your background as far as your training and your interest in nutrition as Vice-President of Nutritional Strategies?

Y: Well my background is education-wise I completed as a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition then I went on to Graduate School where I did my Masters of Health Science specializing in Public Health Nutrition in Canada which is the equivalent of a Masters of Public Health in the US and then at present I’m completing my Doctorate, my PhD in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Toronto.

N: This recent study that I mentioned, were you personally involved in that study and if so how and if not who was involved?

Y: In terms of, I’m a co-author or co-investigator. So my partner and I, Dr. Fulgoni who resides in the United States, we partnered up on this and we looked at, we were interested to understand what grain consumption looks like in the US adult population so we specifically looked at data for men and women over 19 years of age. We used data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey so the short form for that is NHANES and for those of you who are not familiar NHANES is a nationally representative sample of US adults and children. It’s collected every two years by the CDC and it considers food and nutrient intakes in various health measurements including things like weight, waist circumference, risk of being overweight or obese, blood pressures, cholesterol levels, fasting glucose, insulin. So it’s a very rich database and we were able to access the data and basically conduct a secondary analysis of this data. So the advantage of this is that we didn’t go out and collect the data, the government actually collected this data and we basically conducted our own analysis of the data. So someone else who wants to go in and replicate the work can easily do so that’s a big advantage of this work.

N: We’re talking about government collection of data and this data is what you used in the study. Usually that’s thousands and thousands of pages, just how long did the study take?

Y: The database is extensive and it is an enormous amount of data as you pointed out. For us to go in to create the statistical procedures and then assess the data and then interpret the data, from start to finish it took us about three months.

N: Three months’ worth of perusing this data and coming up with some findings. Now of course the findings are extremely important but going in, what was it that you were looking for specifically? What was your goal when it gets right down to it? What were you looking for?

Y: Because of the negative media attention that grains have gotten of recent we wanted to really understand how do Americans consume grain foods and how does this relate to nutrient intakes, diet quality and different health measures like body weight and waist sizes. There wasn’t really any data that existed that talked about how or looked at how Americans are consuming their grains, so that’s what really we were interested in and from this we used a procedure called ‘Cluster Analysis’ and it allows you to work with large data sets and identify different patterns of in this case grain consumption whilst at the same time it maximizes the differences between these grain patterns. And we were able to identify seven unique dietary patterns of consumption in US adults and we took each one of those grain patterns and compared it to a group that we identified that consumes virtually no grains in the diet.

N: Okay so you’ve identified these seven patterns, are we talking about grains overall getting a bad rap all grains or specific types of grains? And if that’s the case then what specific types of grains did your study focus on?

Y: Well, we looked at the entire grain food category. So as I mentioned we found one group that consumes virtually no grains. So this was a small percentage of the population, it was about 6% of the population and they did not consume any of the main grain groups. So they did not consume cereals, they did not consume breads, they did not consume crackers, indulging grains like cakes, cookies and pies. Now they may have had something like what we call a mixed grain, so something like a pizza but even then so that pizza did not register as their top ten foods of consumption. So it was really unique pattern to be able to compare the grain consumers to this groups that doesn’t consume grains. So the seven that I mentioned one was crackers and salty snacks pattern, one was a yeast breads and rolls pattern, one was a cakes, cookies and pies, one was a cereals pattern, one was a pasta, cooked cereals and rice pattern, we had a quick bread pattern and then a mixed grain pattern which meant that these consumers had a variety of grains in their diet. Now if we pick one as an example say yeast, breads and rolls this didn’t mean that all of these consumers only consume yeast, breads and rolls – it meant that 92% of grains came from this grain group. So they could have also had indulging grains in their diet, they could have pasta and rice but in this case 92% of the grains they consume came from yeast, breads and rolls.

N: Would you say that that was the group that had the lowest body weight?

Y: So in terms of lowest body weight we saw that the group that consumed the pasta, cooked cereals and rice on average when you compare them to the no-grain group they weighed 7.2 lbs. less and had 1.2 inches smaller waist sizes even though they had higher calorie intake throughout the day versus the no-grains group.

N: Basically it’s not the grains that you eat per se but how you consume those grains?

Y: Well I think it goes beyond that. I think it’s weight and weight related variables have so my factors that play into that equation, I think a big one is portion sizes. I think if you look at portion control in both Canadian and US diets I mean you’ve seen, visited restaurants and you see the amount of food you get. It’s not necessarily that type of food that you’re eating although that comes into play as well but a big factor is how much of that you’re eating. So it goes back to calories in, if you’re not burning the calories you’re taking in through your normal metabolic activity and additional physical or exercise you’re gonna put on pounds – it’s really that simple.

N: What would you say is the biggest take away from the study that you’re trying to get across to our listeners?

Y: There are several components from this, I see the biggest take away is that our data is showing that eliminating grain foods in the diet and that include both whole and enriched grains can have an unintended consequences on both diet quality and intake of essential nutrients. Dietary guidelines for Americans which was released earlier this year has highlighted 10 nutrients that are shortfall nutrients meaning that Americans two years of age and older do not get enough of these nutrients and the grain category as a whole provides five of these nutrients and very meaningful levels. So it’s not always a good idea to eliminate grains from the diet.

N: If you’re just joining us you’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Mr. Yanni Papanikolaou, Vice-President of Nutritional Strategies and we’ve been in studio discussing a study that was recently published in the Peer Review Journal Food and Nutrition Sciences. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at, you can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.