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Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):161-9.

Wholegrain health claims in Europe.

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dprnutrition, Croydon, Surrey, UK.


Wholegrain foods are important sources of nutrients and phyto-protective components, which are in short supply in many member states of the EU, including the UK. Encouraging the public to increase consumption of wholegrain foods is a positive health message that has critical public health implications. In February 2002 the UK Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI) published its authoritative endorsement that wholegrain foods are associated with a healthy heart (Joint Health Claims Initiative, 2002). This new health claim reflects a similar one in the USA based on the accumulation of epidemiological evidence between 1996 and 2001 from several very large cohort studies in the USA, Finland and Norway, which show a consistent protective effect of whole grain and reduced risk of CHD. The JHCI code of practice on health claims requires that the claimed benefit must be scientifically valid, with evidence supporting efficacy of the food in human consumers, under typical conditions of use. The evidence-based approach consists of the identification of studies, an evaluation of individual references, a critical evaluation of the totality of the evidence and a statement that there is significant scientific agreement to establish the validity of the claim. The studies suggest that an intake of three servings per d may have an important cardio-protective effect. The development of a process for the substantiation of health claims in the UK and in the EU is important to underpin regulatory developments, which should protect the consumer, promote fair trade and encourage innovation in the food industry. The present paper sets out the format of the scientific dossier that was presented to the JHCI and includes a call to promote further research to identify the important protective components in the whole grain 'package' and the biological mechanisms behind the observed beneficial effects on health. The major sources of whole grain in the UK are bread and breakfast cereals, and > 90 % of adults in the UK consume less than three servings per d. Increasing the variety and availability of acceptable wholegrain foods could lead to greater consumption levels, which has important public health implications and offers an attractive and food-based dietary strategy for targeting the whole population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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