Effects of Wholegrain Compared to Refined Grain Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk Markers, Gut Microbiota, and Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Children: A Randomized Crossover Trial
Journal article, 2024

Background: Wholegrain intake is associated with lower risk of cardiometabolic diseases in adults, potentially via changes in the gut microbiota. Although cardiometabolic prevention should start early, we lack evidence on the effects in children. Objectives: This study investigated the effects of wholegrain oats and rye intake on serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and plasma insulin (coprimary outcomes), other cardiometabolic markers, body composition, gut microbiota composition and metabolites, and gastrointestinal symptoms in children with high body mass index (BMI). Methods: In a randomized crossover trial, 55 healthy Danish 8- to 13-y-olds received wholegrain oats and rye (“WG”) or refined grain (“RG”) products ad libitum for 8 wk in random order. At 0, 8, and 16 wk, we measured anthropometry, body composition by dual-energy absorptiometry, and blood pressure. Fasting blood and fecal samples were collected for analysis of blood lipids, glucose homeostasis markers, gut microbiota, and short-chain fatty acids. Gut symptoms and stool characteristics were determined by questionnaires. Diet was assessed by 4-d dietary records and compliance by plasma alkylresorcinols (ARs). Results: Fifty-two children (95%) with a BMI z-score of 1.5 ± 0.6 (mean ± standard deviation) completed the study. They consumed 108 ± 38 and 3 ± 2 g/d wholegrain in the WG and RG period, which was verified by a profound difference in ARs (P < 0.001). Compared with RG, WG reduced LDL cholesterol by 0.14 (95% confidence interval: −0.24, −0.04) mmol/L (P = 0.009) and reduced total:high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (P < 0.001) and triacylglycerol (P = 0.048) without altering body composition or other cardiometabolic markers. WG also modulated the abundance of specific bacterial taxa, increased plasma acetate, propionate, and butyrate and fecal butyrate and reduced fatigue with no other effects on gut symptoms. Conclusion: High intake of wholegrain oats and rye reduced LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol, modulated bacterial taxa, and increased beneficial metabolites in children. This supports recommendations of exchanging refined grain with wholegrain oats and rye among children. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT04430465.

dietary fibers






Marie Terese Barlebo Madsen

University of Copenhagen

Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Life Sciences, Food and Nutrition Science

Dennis Sandris Nielsen

University of Copenhagen

Yichang Zhang

University of Copenhagen

Olivia Mariella Rosie Anneberg

University of Copenhagen

L. Lauritzen

University of Copenhagen

Camilla T Damsgaard

University of Copenhagen

The American journal of clinical nutrition

00029165 (ISSN) 19383207 (eISSN)

Vol. 119 1 18-28

Subject Categories


Nutrition and Dietetics





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