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Should I Really Eat Bread?

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Health no image

Published on September 12th, 2012 | by Yellow Magpie


Should I Really Eat Bread?

Should I Really Eat Bread? Photo By Klaus Hopfner

Should I really eat Bread? Bread is frequently championed as being a healthy option – a stable part of the food pyramid. Yet is this really the case? Are there pros and cons to eating bread and does consumption of different varieties impact upon our health in different ways? Yellow Magpie takes a look at some studies.

White Or Brown Bread?

Bread eaters usually fall into two categories of consumption. Either white bread or brown bread. White bread uses refined flour with the germ and bran (found on the inside and outside respectively) parts of the seed removed. Should I Really Eat Bread? White And Brown (Wholegrain) BreadAlthough many people prefer white to brown wholemeal it is generally put forward that brown bread is much healthier than white bread. There is a myriad of information online that suggests that this is generally true. However, proponents of brown bread  often leave out the negative effects that taking wholemeal bread can cause.

White Bread And Cancer

The consumption of white bread has been shown to increase susceptibility to cancers. Even eating typical to moderate amounts of white bread can boost the chances of developing mutated, cancerous cells. A published study in 2006 entitled Diet and Other Risk Factors for Cancer of the Pancreas found that ‘Increased risks were observed for moderate or frequent consumption of white bread.’

Over the course of our lifetime roughly 40 per cent of us unfortunately develop cancer. Reducing the risk factors will greatly reduce this statistic. The same 2006 study deemed that fruit and vegetables reduced the risk by a ‘statistically significant‘ amount.

White Bread And Diabetes

Cancer is not the only disease, or group of diseases, associated with white bread. Diabetes, or more specifically Type 2 diabetes has shown to have  relationship with the intake of white bread.

A 2004 study titled ‘Glycemic Index and Dietary Fiber and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes‘ published in Diabetes Care showed a strong relationship between white bread and diabetes. Perhaps most damning of all was that white bread was found to be the most likely of the foods tested to cause diabetes. ‘White bread was the food most strongly related to diabetes incidence and was also the most strongly associated with GI[Glycemic Index].’, the study noted.

Should I Really Eat Bread? Photo By Edward Z. Yang

Another cause of concern is the manner in which white bread causes blood sugar levels to rise. Those who take the least amount of white bread experience the lowest levels of glucose rises. As people eat more and more of this type of bread their blood sugars levels soar. ‘White bread showed a J-shaped relationship with risk of diabetes, which was highest in the top quartile of intake.’ 

Brown Bread The Truly Healthy Option?

Brown bread is often touted as being necessary for a healthy diet. Certainly when you compare it to white bread it is a much  better alternative but it does have its disadvantages. These downsides occur when it comes to the body’s ability to absorb much-needed minerals and vitamins from foods.

Brown Brown And Mineral Absorption

As far back as 1942 a study found that brown bread has a detrimental impact upon mineral absorption. Magnesium and calcium absorption were all found to be greatly inhibited by the consumption of wholegrain bread. More recent studies have confirmed these findings and added zinc and iron to the minerals that brown bread prevents from being absorbed efficiently.

Should I Really Eat Bread A Selection of Bread At A Swiss Bakery

Why does brown bread interfere with mineral absorption? Brown or wholemeal bread contains phytic acid which is how seeds store phosphorous. Phytic acid binds to minerals such as those highlighted above making them insoluble. Consequently, the body cannot absorb minerals such as calcium and phosphorous once they are bound to phytic acid.

Mineral Deficiencies And Their Consequences

Of course, not everyone who eats wholemeal bread will suffer from mineral deficiencies. It is also worth realising that some brown breads are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help alleviate absorption problems. Nevertheless, awareness of these issues hurts no one. If you do suffer from any of these problems it may not be prudent to consume foods which inhibit the absorption of these minerals and vitamins.

Calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcaemia can be quite a serious condition. It can cause the appearance of large bruised areas around the body, pins and needles sensations, hyperactive tendon reflexes and muscular spasms. More serious impacts include irregular heart beat rhythm known as cardiac arrhythmias and spasms that block the airwaves. A 2004 study, In vitro analysis of binding capacities of calcium to phytic acid in different food samples, published in the European Food Research And Technology journal showed that phytic acid inhibits the absorption of calcium.

Other minerals that are inhibited by phytic acid include, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Magnesium deficiency can cause dizziness, loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue and muscle cramp. On the more damaging end of the scale it can cause personalities to change and even death through heart failure.

Zinc is a stimulate for appetite. Therefore, a zinc deficiency can lead to a decrease in appetite which can lead to anorexia in extreme cases. Other problems from low zinc levels include cognitive impairment, decreased production of testosterone in men and pneumonia.

A deficiency in iron can lead to dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, a less efficient immune system and restless legs syndrome.

Should I Really Eat Bread Photo? By Henrik Namlos Thorne

Niacin, or vitamin B3 as it also known as, plays an important role in regulating cholesterol levels. Niacin deficiency can lead to low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as good and bad cholesterol respectively).

Its other effects include fatigue, cognitive impairment, digestive problems, depression and amnesia. If nothing is done about niacin deficiency it can eventually lead to death. A paper entitled The bioavailability for humans of bound niacin from wheat bran13 in the American Journal of Nutrition highlights the problem of niacin deficiency in the developing world.

Should I Really Eat Bread?

There are a lot of benefits to eating bread.

  • Bread is relatively cheap to purchase.
  • It is highly palatable or hedonic.
  • Bread forms a pivotal role in social interaction and it is has a huge cultural significance.
  • It is a relatively good source of calories.
  • It requires minimum preparation.

On the negative side of the equation.

  • White bread significantly increases your chances of developing cancer.
  • White bread increases the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Brown bread inhibits vitamin and mineral absorption and can acerbate conditions caused by such deficiencies.

When various proponents of bread champion this food rarely do they mention the downsides. Even brown bread, which is often said to be the healthy option, does have health consequences that needs to be understood.

Should I Really Eat Bread A Selection of Bread At A German Bakery

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