For raised heath properties it is known that, compared with modern grain varieties which are often heavily refined, ancient grains offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory profiles. They also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals which protect against chronic diseases. Over recent years there has been a surge in their popularity, however, whether consuming ancient grains has an impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) is unknown. Now, a study led by researchers at the University of Florence shows that eating bread made with ancient grains as part of a healthy diet could help lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels, leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke. The team state their study adds to increasing evidence that ancient grain varieties may help reduce risk factors for CVD. The opensource study is published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
Previous studies show that ancient grain varieties are reported as a potential health-promoting food source, due to the higher content of beneficial nutrients such as antioxidant molecules, vitamins and minerals. Earlier studies from the team have shown that the presence and quantity of the beneficial components derived from the grain are dependent both on the type of grain as well as from aspects relating to the production, storage and transformation of the grain. However, there are no published studies on possible beneficial effects, on cardiovascular risk parameters, in subjects consuming ancient grain grown under different methods of cultivation. The current study evaluates the effect of a replacement diet with bread derived from ancient grain varieties versus modern grain variety on cardiovascular risk profile, in a randomized, double-blinded crossover trial.
The current study observes 45 healthy adults, average age 50, who have swapped their usual loaf for bread made from ancient and modern grains, during three separate interventions each lasting 8 weeks. In the first phase, 22 participants were randomly assigned to include organically cultivated bread made from the ancient grain Verna in their diet, and the other 23 participants were assigned to eat conventionally cultivated bread made from the same grain. Eight weeks later, all participants were assigned to eat bread made with the modern grain Blasco. Finally, participants were assigned to consume bread made with two different ancient grain varieties, namely Gentil Rosso and Autonomia B, both conventionally grown.
The lab took blood samples at the start of the study and at the end of each intervention to test lipid, cholesterol, and glucose levels as well as other cardiovascular measures. Results show that total cholesterol and harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, as well as levels of blood glucose, significantly reduced after 2 months of consuming bread made from ancient grains, regardless of whether they are organically or traditionally grown. Data findings show that no significant differences were seen in CVD measures after eating bread made with modern grains. The researchers note that a substantial increase in circulating endothelial progenitor cells, which repair damaged blood vessels, was also noted after consuming bread made from the ancient grain Verna.
The team surmise that their findings suggest that ancient grains may help reduce some CVD risk factors regardless of how they are cultivated. For the future, the researchers state that because of the limited number of participants, larger studies will be needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn about the effects of ancient grains on heart health.
Source: The University of Florence
Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.