The focus on overweight Americans, and the desire to turn the trend around, has resulted in many theories about the cause of the overweight and obesity trend. Suggested triggers for being overweight have ranged from sugar sweetened beverages to the latest “hot-button” gluten or wheat.
With all of these “theories” what does the evidence show?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks the wheat crop both in terms of acres planted and in wheat consumption; data indicates that wheat consumption is on the decline. Wheat consumption fell from an estimated 146 pounds per person in 2000 to a low of 134 pounds in the mid-2000s.
In 2008 consumption patterns showed a slight increase to 136.6 pounds but this per person intake is a 10.2 pound per person reduction from 1997.
So while the obesity epidemic seems to be growing our intake of wheat is declining. Similar studies have looked at the gluten in wheat, rye and barley to see if it is metabolized in a way that might be contributing to overweight and the outcomes show that gluten is not a trigger to weight gain.
While gluten is not a trigger to weight gain and the fact that wheat intake is declining there is no question that if you consume more from wheat foods than you need – you will gain weight. So how do you proceed?
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the inclusion of at least three ounces of whole grain per day. One ounce of whole grain is often equivalent to a slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked pasta or 1 cup of dry cereal so three ounces per day could mean a sandwich and ½ cup of pasta.
The Dietary Guidelines do allow for more than three whole grains per day but for the average adult the additional servings are just three to four ounces more.
If you’re working to include more whole grains or trying to keep grains at the right level to meet your nutritional needs but limit the calories you consume from grains a visit to Choose My Plate would be a very good idea. At the website you can learn why you need grains, how much you should consume and what equals a serving of grain.