The Grain Chain, a farm to table coalition of stakeholders in the grain industry sector and chaired by the American Bakers Association (ABA), submitted oral and written comments on the nutritional benefits of bread and grain-based products in response to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recently released scientific report. 

The recommendations in the Committee’s report will form the basis of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The DGAs are the cornerstone of all Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education guidelines, shaping consumer health decisions and doctor recommendations. 

“The enrichment and fortification of grain foods have made lasting contributions to health,” said Lee Sanders, ABA’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations. “Additionally, grain food manufacturers are constantly innovating to improve the nutritional profile of their products and deliver more health benefits to consumers.” 

Key recommendations 
The testimony and written comments highlighted key recommendations: 

  • Iron-fortified grain foods can help meet increased iron demand during pregnancy 
  • There is little information in pregnancy about the role of whole grains versus refined grains in affecting the outcomes of pregnancy and the potential influence on childhood obesity 
  • Major obstetrical outcomes in study conducted by Dr. Young were unrelated to the proportion of whole grains versus refined grains consumed 
  • In a study conducted by Dr. Bruce Young OBGYN, pregnant women who consumed mostly whole grains versus mostly refined grains both gained weight appropriately by IOM guidelines 
  • Grain foods are a significant contributor to dietary fiber and almost one-quarter of dietary fiber comes from enriched grain foods 

Health benefits of enriched and whole grains
As plant-based foods, grains, both enriched and whole, are affordable, versatile, convenient, and easy to store. Research demonstrates, both enriched and whole grains provide significant nutrition value in the American diet.  

The DGAC recommendation suggests to “consume half of your grains from whole grain sources” and the remainder from enriched grain. While the Grain Chain appreciates the inclusion of whole grains, there is concerning language throughout the DGAC’s report linking refined grains with poor dietary patterns and health outcomes.  

In comments to the DGAC, the Grain Chain explains “scientific evidence clearly and unequivocally illustrates the key roles of grains – both enriched and whole - in healthy dietary patterns and their significant contributions to diet quality,” and urges the agencies to correct the misleading language about enriched grains in the final guidelines. 

“Correcting this language will help avoid further consumer confusion and counterbalance the misrepresentation enriched grains have experienced to date,” said the Grain Chain in their written comments. “It is also an appropriate opportunity to highlight enriched grains’ positive impact on health outcomes.”

The Importance of Enriched Grains in Various Life Stages 
Numerous research studies have demonstrated the significant, positive nutrition and wellness contributions of enriched grains at various life stages.  

“Federal nutrition programs such as the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Programs, Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children include a wide range of nutrient-dense beneficial grain foods. These foods are selected for the nutrient contributions provided to at-risk populations and help to improve diet quality,” said the Grain Chain in the recent written comments. 

Specifically, the enrichment of grain-based foods “resulted in the eradication of such diet-related diseases as pellagra and beriberi, while fortification with folic acid is credited with significantly reducing the prevalence of neural tube defects (by 35 percent since 1998). Enriched grain foods also provide short-fall nutrients (iron, fiber) that contribute to positive health outcomes in various life stages.” 

“We emphasize the importance of eating folic acid fortified foods, such as enriched breads, cereals, enriched pasta, milled rice and tortillas before conception occurs, to prevent neural tube defects,” testified Dr. Bruce Young, speaking on behalf of the Grain Chain. “We explain that the critical period is in the early weeks of pregnancy, often before the patient knows that she is pregnant, so folic acid enriched foods should be part of the daily diet.”