According to CPW, there is “significant confusion” among consumers about whole grain consumption. Most people – 82% - believe that it is “important” to eat whole grains but almost the same number – 83% - said they don’t know how much they should consume.
The survey of more than 16,000 consumers was conducted on behalf of CPW by independent researchers at Censuswide. It found that less than half of respondents, 47%, think they eat enough whole grains.
The study revealed 38% of consumers are unsure about what foods include whole grains. Indeed, one in ten respondents said bananas contained whole grains, 18% suggested they could be found in white bread and 14% believe whole grains are included in white rice. Seeds and nuts were also commonly misidentified as sources of whole grains, by 28% and 21% of respondents respectively.
Health benefits of whole grain
Whole grain consumption as part of a healthy diet is associated with lower risk of non-communicable disease.
The World Health Organization recommends that people should increase whole grain consumption as well as upping their intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts to prevent chronic diseases. Research has also linked higher consumption of whole grains with reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
The research found that 65% of consumers associated whole grains with being high in fibre, while 64% said they were good for digestion. However, “the broader benefits are not as widely known”, CPW concluded. Less than half - 48% -believe it is good for the heart and only 18% think that it can help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
Chris Seal, professor of Food and Human Nutrition, Newcastle University, commented: “Whole grain is an essential component in the diet providing us with an important source of fibre and other nutrients which help to prevent heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.”
Call for global guidelines
Despite the widely recognised health benefits, only three countries – the US, the Netherlands and Denmark – offer quantitative recommendations for whole grain consumption. The US suggests at least 48g per day, Denmark recommends 64-75g a day and the Netherlands recommends the equivalent of 115g daily.
David Homer, president and CEO of CPW, said that the company supports the introduction of “global guidelines” to support whole grain consumption. According to the company, Denmark has seen a 72% increase in whole grain intake following the introduction of guidelines alongside a government-backed campaign.
“Our new research shows that people need help knowing how much whole grain to eat and importantly why getting more whole grain in our diets matters. We see an opportunity for governments, academics and industry to back a global commitment to help inform people about whole grain and to increase the availability of whole grain foods. The first step on this journey is to agree to a set of global guidelines for recommended daily whole grain intake,” Homer commented.