It may seem counterintuitive, but eating bread, pasta and cereal may actually help prevent type 2 diabetes, as long as those foods are made from whole grains, new research suggests.
The study found that each serving of whole-grain foods per day was linked to as much as an 11 percent drop in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
"Whole grains appear to play an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, and choosing whole grains over refined grains is highly recommended," said study author Cecilie Kyro. She is a post-doctoral researcher at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen.
Kyro added that, in addition to preventing type 2 diabetes, there is evidence that whole grains can help prevent heart disease and colon cancer.
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and most have type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). People with type 2 diabetes don't use the hormone insulin efficiently.
Insulin normally ushers blood sugar into cells to be used as energy. But some people are resistant to the effects of insulin, and then more and more insulin is needed to do the same job. Eventually, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas can't keep up with the demand, and blood sugar levels rise, resulting in type 2 diabetes, according to the ADA.
Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, are known to play a role in type 2 diabetes. In the latest study, researchers wanted to see what role specific whole grains played in type 2 diabetes.
To do this, they reviewed diet information from more than 55,000 people, aged 50 to 65, in Denmark. On average, the group was slightly overweight.
Overall, about 7,400 people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the study's average 15-year follow-up.
The study volunteers completed food diaries. From these food diaries, the researchers calculated how many grams of whole grains each person ate daily.
The investigators found that for every serving of whole-grain food, the risk of type 2 diabetes dropped by 11 percent for men and 7 percent for women.
In women, only wheat and oats seemed to reduce the risk of diabetes. But for men, all whole grains -- wheat, rye and oats -- were linked to a lower risk of the blood sugar disorder. Kyro said this difference may just be a statistical anomaly because fewer women developed diabetes.
She added that all whole-grain products can be recommended for preventing type 2 diabetes in both men and women.