Ancient, non-genetically modified grains could be beneficial in type 2 diabetes

Ancient, non-genetically modified grains could be beneficial in type 2 diabetes
Ancient, non-genetically modified grains could be beneficial in type 2 diabetes

A new study highlights the potential benefits of including ancient grains in dietary patterns for people with diabetes. This new analysis of 29 randomized controlled trials suggests that ancient grains such as oats, brown rice and millet may produce positive results in improving lipid profiles and managing type 2 diabetes.

However, the study also points to the need for further research, given the variability and limitations of the data analyzed. The findings, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseasesemphasizes the importance of dietary choices in diabetes management, alongside traditional medical treatments.

Studying the impact of ancient grains on diabetes

Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of different types of ancient grains in managing diabetes. The studies involved a total of 1,809 participants, with a slightly higher proportion of men (55.2%) and an average age of about 56 years. Most participants had type 2 diabetes, with only one study including people with type 1 diabetes.

On average, the participants had been living with diabetes for about 14 years, with many managing their condition with oral medications or a combination of oral medications and insulin injections. All included studies looked at cardiovascular risk factors such as body weight, blood sugar and cholesterol, with significantly different results. However, they did not address other vital aspects of diabetes management, such as patient satisfaction, overall well-being, and the cost-effectiveness of using ancient grains in diabetes treatment.

The studies included in the analysis most commonly examined the effects of oats, brown rice, buckwheat or chia seeds on diabetes. Notably, only a fraction of studies (24%) used whole, unrefined grains in their research. Using specialized software, the researchers combined and analyzed the various study data to identify consistent trends in the impact of ancient grains on diabetes.

Ancient grains improve blood glucose levels

The majority of studies (96.5%) suggested a positive effect of ancient grain consumption on various markers of diabetes, including insulin levels, hemoglobin A1c, fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Of the ancient grains studied, oats it was noted for its potential to significantly improve cholesterol and blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, which was supported by previous research.

Brown rice also showed beneficial effects, particularly on HbA1c and body mass index (BMI), but not on other markers of blood sugar and cholesterol, which is partially in line with previous research, according to the study authors. Also of note, millet had a significant effect on body weight, however, the study authors recommend that this finding be interpreted with caution due to potential confounding factors in the included studies.

Conversely, despite their known health benefits, chia seeds did not demonstrate a significant influence on diabetes markers in this meta-analysis, possibly due to the small sample sizes involved.

The study found that the “ancient grain” could benefit those with type 2 diabetes, but the results may not be completely reliable due to the variability of the studies.

Ancient grains boost metabolic health

Medical News Today spoke with Dr. Avantika Waring, MD, a board-certified physician in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolic disease and medical director at 9amHealth, who is not involved in the study, about how ancient grains may improve outcomes for people with diabetes .

Waring explained: “There are a variety of phytochemicals in ancient, whole grains, including flavonoids and phenolic acids (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties) and phytosterols (heart healthy and improve lipid profile) that can improve overall metabolic health and improve blood glucose and cholesterol management in type 2 diabetes.” She also noted that “the thick layer of bran in unprocessed whole grains breaks down slowly, thus preventing spikes in blood sugar, which can also help improve diabetes management“.

Eliza Whitaker, a registered dietitian and medical nutrition advisor at Dietitian Insights, who was not involved in the study, also spoke to MNT about the study’s findings. She emphasized the role of oxidative stress in the progression of diabetes and explained that “phytochemicals such as phytosterols, lignans, flavonoids, and carotenoids found in ancient grains have anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate [acest] oxidative stress”. Compared to modern grain varieties, which were mainly cultivated after the 1960s, ancient grains have undergone less genetic modification and are usually reported to have superior nutritional composition and kernel quality.

Specifically, ancient grains tend to contain higher levels of certain phytochemicals and dietary fiber, which are associated with potential health benefits related to insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and overall blood sugar control. However, research directly comparing the impact of ancient and modern grains on health outcomes in diabetics is limited. Both types can be consumed in minimally processed forms to preserve their nutritional composition and potential benefits.

Should people with diabetes eat more ancient grains?

Dr. Waring and Dr. Whitaker agreed that ancient grains are safe and likely beneficial for most people with type 2 diabetes to eat in regular portions and as part of a balanced diet.

People with type 1 diabetes can also eat ancient grains and work with dietitians to adjust their insulin and manage any spikes in blood sugar that occur when they eat carbohydratesWaring added.

However, both experts strongly recommend prioritizing minimally refined grains such as oats and chia seeds over more refined grains such as bread, pasta or cereal, which likely don’t offer the same benefits.

No matter what type of food you prefer, half of your plate should contain green vegetables, a quarter of your plate lean protein (can be plant-based like beans or tofu) and a quarter of whole grains. This is a balanced approach,” said Dr. Waring.

When asked whether people with diabetes should opt for a diet high in ancient grains, which are higher in carbohydrates, versus a low-carb diet for optimal blood sugar management, Waring concluded: While ancient grains and any whole grains can raise blood sugar levels in a person with diabetes, higher levels of fiber, especially when paired with healthy fats as part of a meal, help minimize sugar spikes in blood. Low-carb diets are one way to keep your blood sugar steady, however, they are usually not sustainable in the long term, and when you eliminate grains from your diet, you lose the fiber, phytochemicals, and fat on herbal base that we know promotes heart health and longevity.”


The article is in Romanian

Tags: Ancient nongenetically modified grains beneficial type diabetes


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