Two recent studies have found that consuming rye bread, rather than wheat based bread, may reduce cholesterol levels by more than 10%. Rye bread is a popular food item in Germany and eastern European countries such as Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine. It is also widely available in the United States and tends to be darker, slightly denser, and with a stronger flavour than the more common wheat based breads.
Two studies have looked at the effect of rye bread on cholesterol levels. The first study was conducted by Finnish researchers and was published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2000. The study involved 40 individuals with moderately high cholesterol levels who were put on both rye based and wheat based bread diets for a 4 week period. The researchers found that the rye bread reduced the cholesterol levels of men by an average of 8% but did not change the levels of the women. For men in the top third of rye bread consumption, total cholesterol levels dropped by 10% while LDL cholesterol levels dropped by an impressive 12%.
A second study, published in 2008 in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that pigs fed a diet high in rye bread had both LDL and total cholesterol levels 40% lower than pigs fed a diet high in wheat bread. HDL cholesterol levels were largely similar between the two groups.
Rye bread has several other health advantages over regular wheat bread. Rye bread tends to be higher in fiber than other breads with 6% fiber compared to just 2% for regular white. Rye bread also contains higher levels of manganese and selenium which are both important minerals for heart health. The glycemic index for rye bread is 58 which is relatively low for a bread product, by comparison, white bread has a GI of 72 and wholemeal bread a GI of 65. A lower glycemic index is important because it prevents spikes in blood sugar and results in a slower, more sustained energy release.
Rye bread may also improve insulin secretion according to at least one study. That study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2003 found a 10% increase in insulin response after a intravenous glucose test following an 8 week diet where large amounts of high fiber rye bread were consumed. This suggests that rye bread may be a good option for type-2 diabetics where insulin secretion is often impaired.
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