There is compelling evidence from epidemiological studies that consumption of whole grains is beneficial to health. They are associated with reduced risk of developing heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. However, the mechanisms through which these effects are modulated are not known, and evidence from controlled intervention studies is required to substantiate the health claims to help generate effective public health messages aimed at increasing consumption. It is evident that the message that whole grains have health benefits is not being transmitted to consumers effectively. The reasons why consumers do not eat them are many and complex, and include issues such as higher cost, availability, preconceptions of poor taste and eating attributes, and lack of confidence in cooking.16 The scientific message, once proven, must be translated into consumer-friendly information that can be incorporated on food packaging and labels within the legislative framework which currently exists. To be successful, any health-promotion strategy must also address the needs and aspirations of the consumer and the consumer must be motivated to change; for this, clear evidence of reduced risk of disease is required. Key to this exercise will be engagement with industry in the development of new whole-grain products that meet criteria for health claims and can be marketed at affordable prices. A particular focus could be products targeted at children who might then develop lifelong whole-grain-eating habits outside whole-grain breakfast cereals. Promoting whole-grain consumption in a "positive" manner may be a successful approach. For example, emphasis on increasing consumption of whole-grain foods, substitution of refined products, and enhancing health invokes positive associations that may be more successful in the longer term in achieving the required dietary change.
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|Published - 1 Jun 2007