WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A “Grain Chain” presentation Jan. 14 before the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee listed health attributes of enriched grains and endorsed maintaining recommendations that encourage Americans to consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. 

The Grain Chain is made of up of 10 member organizations. Joanne Slavin, a professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, gave the presentation.

“We also urge the committee to give ample recognition to the valuable role of enriched grains in a healthy diet in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, a key component of which is fortification with folic acid,” said Slavin, who was a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

She talked about a 2011 proclamation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reported the fortification of folic acid to enriched grains resulted in a decrease in neural tube birth defects by 36% in the U.S., placing it among the 10 top public health achievements in the first decade of the century.

Slavin said consuming only whole grains and no enriched grains would lower folate and iron intakes to less than adequate amounts for populations at risk for those nutrients. Grains, both whole and enriched, are affordable sources of key nutrients for all Americans, she said.

“The Grain Chain believes that this conclusion clearly points to the value of a balance of both whole and enriched grains in a healthy and sustainable diet,” Slavin said.

Increased whole grain consumption, she added, is associated positively with less cardiovascular disease and reduced body mass index. Globally, the U.S. is the leader in whole grain product introductions, launching 651 in 2010 alone, according to research from the Mintel Global New Products Database.

Slavin related grain consumption to other health areas.

In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an increase in the amount of vitamin D allowed for baked foods using vitamin D yeast. Grain foods provided the most to fiber intakes (44%), Slavin said. Vegetables (21%), fruit (13%) and dry beans and other legumes (10%) trail grain foods. Many fortified cereals deliver at least 25% of the recommended daily value for iron, and one slice of enriched bread delivers 6% of the daily value for iron.

Slavin said the Institute of Medicine on May 15, 2013, identified a number of research and data gaps that need to be addressed before recommending specific sodium targets for the general population.

Members of the Grain Chain include the American Bakers Association, AIB International, the Grain Foods Foundation, the Grains for Health Foundation, the Independent Bakers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Pasta Association, the North American Millers’ Association, the USA Rice Federation and the Wheat Foods Council.