Science - October 5, 2012

Wholemeal bread is good for health

Nutrition professor Frans Kok is getting a little tired of hearing claims which come up every so often about how (un)healthy our food is. The latest example is the statement made by baker Menno 't Hoen on the opinion page of de Volkskrant newspaper that wholemeal bread is unhealthy and fattening. Absolute rubbish, says Kok.

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The last thing one would expect from a baker is criticism about bread, but 't Hoen turns against the campaign of the Bread Information Centre which proclaims that wholemeal bread is always good. Bread, says the baker, has a lot of carbohydrates, and raises our blood sugar level faster than sugar and cream cakes. Our bodies subsequently produce a lot of insulin in a short period of time in order to convert the sugars from bread into fats, he adds. By eating a lot of bread, the blood sugar level remains high, and accumulated fats cannot break down. Short and simply, he argues that bread - including wholemeal bread - is fattening.
Rubbish, says the nutrition professor. In food substances, there is a difference between fast and slow degradable carbohydrates. Vegetables, fruit and wholemeal bread have complex carbohydrates which are broken down slowly, Kok lectures. Highly processed products have mostly carbohydrates which break down quickly and are quickly absorbed by the blood stream. This is the complete opposite to what the baker claims. Kok: Whole meal bread does not cause big rises in the blood sugar level. On the other hand, processed wheat in white bread, white rice and cornflakes do give a glucose boost. There is nothing wrong with eating six to seven slices of wholemeal bread - not to be confused with processed brown bread - per day.
Kok often has to dispel myths and fables about our food which the press publishes. So he wrote a book last year in which he examined pseudoscience concerning our food, entitled Gezond eten, gewoon doen (eat healthily, just do it). He can now quote at length from this book since new 'theories' about the food we eat keep popping up. Currently, there are 16 million experts in the field of nutrition.

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