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These Popular Foods Can Shorten Your Life, New Study Says

New research shows a connection between breakfast cereals, croissants, and white pasta and early death.
FACT CHECKED BY Cheyenne Buckingham

It's no secret that a buttery croissant, toasted bagel, or even crackers with jam can feel like the ultimate cozy food on a cold winter morning. However, if you're eating these staples several times daily—along with other refined grains like white pasta or baked desserts—you could be upping your risk for disease and even shortening your lifespan.

Researchers looked at data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which has been analyzing diets of diverse populations in low-, middle, and high-income countries throughout the world, in new research published in The British Medical Journal.

In doing so, they examined over 16 years of data from 137,130 participants in 21 countries, and discovered that eating seven servings of refined grains per day was associated with:

  • 27% higher risk for early death
  • 33% higher risk for heart disease
  • 47% higher risk for stroke

On the other hand, there weren't any significant negative health effects found with consuming whole grains or white rice. In the PURE study, white bread was the main source of carbohydrates—and the researchers noted that consumption of refined grains and added sugars has grown throughout the past few decades. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).

"We are not surprised about the findings of our study," says study author Mahshid Dehghan, PhD, citing previous PURE research that linked high carbohydrate intake with increased risk of mortality and heart disease. "Refined grains have lower dietary fiber, largely because of the process of refining. Therefore, they have a higher glycemic index and increase blood glucose levels very fast."

This can eventually lead to issues like hypoglycemia (a drop in blood sugar) and the stimulation of hunger (which leads to overeating). This may partly explain the adverse effects connected with high intake of refined grains.

Of course, this doesn't mean you have to go on the keto diet or strictly cut back on carbohydrates in other ways. Keep in mind that the adverse health effects seen in this study were from eating seven servings of refined grains per day—which may be easy to add up to if you're used to having, say, pasta with bread and a cookie for dessert. However, you can easily replace many of these servings with whole grains like whole oats, rye, millet, barley, or even popcorn.

"Reduction in the quantity of refined grains and sugar, and improvements in the quality of carbohydrate is essential for better health outcomes," says Dehghan. "However, we do not suggest complete elimination of refined grains."

And for more, Controlling This Hormone May Help Lower Blood Sugar, Study Finds.

Kelsey Kloss
Kelsey Kloss is a health and nutrition writer based in New York City. Read more
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