A surprising way wholegrains may contribute to health.

All carbohydrates have become an ‘enemy’ to many people unfortunately. Yet, eating wholegrain carbohydrates has been associated with beneficial health effects including reduction of diabetes and cancer risk. Indeed, a study by the University of Eastern Finland and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has now looked at the underlying mechanisms for why these grains can be so good for us. They found an extraordinary reason: whole grain can contribute to health by changing intestinal serotonin production.

Adults consuming whole grain rye have lower plasma serotonin levels than people eating low-fibre wheat bread. In the study, the consumption of cereal fibre from rye or wheat was also found to reduce serotonin levels in the colon of mice. This suggests the health benefits of whole grain cereals may be linked, at least in part, to the alteration of serotonin production in the intestines, where the majority of the body’s serotonin is produced.

This is interesting because serotonin produced by the intestines remains separated from the brain, modulating the gut’s motility – the ability of organisms and fluid to move or get around. Increased blood serotonin has also been associated with high blood glucose levels. As whole grain is known to reduce the risk of diabetes, these results suggest the effect could be due in part to a decrease in serotonin levels.

The researchers were also interested in the association of serotonin with colorectal cancer. So, when it comes to carbohydrates, don’t tar them all with the same brush; consider giving whole grain a chance.

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