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Are Cornflakes really healthy?

Posted Nov 12 2009 10:02pm

cornflakes_unhealthy_breakfast_cereals

In the past few months I’ve spent a bit of time highlighting healthy cereal options for breakfast that are not only nutritious but tasty.

Cereal is one of those foods that is marketed as healthy, but you really (really!) have to read the label to know what’s in it. Often, there are a lot of really unhealthy ingredients masquerading as healthy ones.

If you missed the two reviews I did on healthy cereals, you can still catch the video reviews here:

Video review: How to choose healthy cereals (part 1)

Video Review: How to choose healthy cereals (part 2)

I recently found out about a study that will be a rude awakening for a lot of people.

In collaboration with the Endocrinology Institute, Dr. Michael Shechter, from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine and the Heart Institute of Sheba Medical Center, has found a correlation between high carb foods (simple carbs, that is) and an increased incedence of heart-related issues. The results from his research are quite telling, and once you read more about it, you’ll start to look at your breakfast cereal in a very different light.

For the study, the researchers worked with four different groups and gave them these breakfast options:

1)  Water (placebo group)

2)  Sugary cereal

3)  Bran flakes

4)  Cornflakes mixed with milk (similar to what millions of people eat every morning).

During the four week period over which the study was conducted, Dr. Shechter used what is called “brachial reactive testing”, which allows researchers to see how the arteries function in each test subject. The concept is similar to the machines used for blood pressure testing. The results were staggering:

* Before the test subjects ate breakfast, their arteries were functioning in a similar way.

* After eating, groups 2, 3 and 4 saw a decline in the function of their arteries.

* Researchers saw peaks that indicated there was arterial stress found in the high glycemic index groups (groups 2 and 4)

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Dr. Shechter’s conclusion is quite telling:

“We knew high glycemic foods were bad for the heart. Now we have a mechanism that shows how. Foods like cornflakes, white bread, French fries, and sweetened soda all put undue stress on our arteries. We’ve explained for the first time how high glycemic carbs can affect the progression of heart disease.”

When the subjects consumed high levels of sugar, there seemed to be a temporary and quite sudden dysfunction in the endothelial walls of the arteries. According to Dr. Shechter, endothelial health is connected to nearly every disorder and disease in the human body.

“It’s the riskiest of the risk factors,” says Dr. Shechter.

Undoubtedly, a lot of readers will disagree, but the reality is that white refined sugar is the number one ager and cause of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to so many disorders and diseases, so the moral of the story here is to minimize your consumption of refined sugar.

Dr. Shechter offers these sensible and uncomplicated tips:

* Stick to foods like oatmeal

* Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

* Don’t skimp on nuts and legumes

In other words, gravitate towards foods that are low on the glycemic index! Obviously, a good recipe for health would never be complete without regular vigorous exercise.

Just in case you had never heard of the glycemic index, I thought of adding a quick explanation from Glycemic Index (a site based in the Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney):

“The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Recent studies from Harvard School of Public Health indicate that the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease are strongly related to the GI of the overall diet. In 1999, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommended that people in industrialised countries base their diets on low-GI foods in order to prevent the most common diseases of affluence, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

Photo by Rex Roof

Photo of bowl cereal by .HEI

Find out more about Dr. Shechter’s work here: Landmark Study from Tel Aviv University Shows How High Carb Foods Cause Heart Attacks

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