Evaluation of the usefulness of the 10:1 wholegrain criterion in identifying nutrient quality of UK bread and breakfast cereals

Bahar M.F. Ghodsian, Angela Madden

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


BACKGROUND: There is evidence that consuming wholegrain (WG) foods is associated with health benefits including reduced diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk(1). However, this is no standardised definition of ‘WG’ foods in the UK or internationally. One proposed definition(2) is that a food is WG if it contains a carbohydrate:fibre ratio of <10:1. This is roughly the ratio in whole-wheat flour(2) and is associated with good nutritional quality due to the various nutrients in fibre including various phytosterols and antioxidants(3). The current study builds on research by Mozaffarian et al.(2) who looked at the applicability of this criterion in the United States. Hence the aim of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of this <10:1 criterion when assessing nutrient quality of bread and breakfast cereals sold in UK supermarkets.             
METHOD: The study followed a cross-sectional design where nutritional information was gathered from online data for all bread and breakfast cereals sold at the ‘Big Four’ UK supermarkets where 79% of the UK population buy food(4). Products with a carbohydrate:fibre ratio of <10:1 were included in the study and their nutritional content was recorded. Each product was then categorised using the Food Standards Agency (FSA) criteria(5) as high, medium or low for fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Foods with low and/ or medium amounts of these nutrients were considered to have ‘good’ nutrient quality. A Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was completed which showed the data were non-parametric. Spearman rank correlations were used to assess the relationship between carbohydrate:fibre ratio and energy and other nutrients. Differences between the nutrient content of products with fruit, nuts and seeds and those without were examined using independent samples median tests. Ethical permission was not required.                            
RESULTS: A total of 162 breads and 266 breakfast cereals met the <10:1 inclusion criteria. On average, these breads were categorised as containing medium fat, low saturated fat, low sugar and medium sodium while breakfast cereals were categorised as medium fat, low saturated fat, high sugar and low sodium. In both bread and breakfast cereals, as the carbohydrate:fibre ratio decreased, fat content increased (bread: r = −0.171, P = 0.029; breakfast cereals: r = −0.131, P = 0.033) and, in breakfast cereals only, as the ratio increased, sugar content also increased (r = 0.381, P < 0.0001). Breakfast cereals with fruit, nuts and seeds contained more fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium per 100 g than those without (all P < 0.0001). Similarly, breads with fruit, nuts and seeds had more energy, fat and saturated fat than those without (all P < 0.0001).                          
DISCUSSION: Mozaffarian et al.,(2) reported that the <10:1 criterion was useful in identifying the ‘most healthful’ WG products when analysing a range of American foods. The results from the present study indicate a similar finding in UK breads and breakfast cereals although the presence of fruit, nuts and seeds is potentially confounding. This criterion could be used in public health and adopted by manufacturers to provide additional information on food packaging. Nonetheless, it is not a substitute for the FSA criteria(4) as these provide more information that is not captured by the carbohydrate:fibre ratio. Recent research indicates that WG particle size may impact on the health benefits associated with WGs and, if so, further studies are required to identify how this could be conveyed to consumers.                           
CONCLUSIONS: The <10:1 criterion may be potentially useful in defining WG products as it can be used to identify breads and breakfast cereals that have good nutritional quality.                                  
1. Seal CJ, Brownlee IA. Whole-grain foods and chronic disease: evidence from epidemiological and intervention studies. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 2015;74:213–219.                         
2. Mozaffarian RS, Lee RM, Kennedy MA et al. Identifying whole grain foods: a comparison of different approaching for selecting more healthful whole grain products. Public Health Nutr. 2013;16: 2255–2264.                         
3. Slavin J (2004). Whole grains and human health. Nutrition Research Review, 17, 99–110.                        
4. MINTEL. (2014). Food and Drink Retailing – UK, March 2014.                        
5. Food Standards Agency (2013) Guide to creating a front of pack (FoP) nutrition label for pre-packed products sold through retail outlets. http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/pdf-ni/fop-guidance.pdf (accessed July 2016).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages51
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2017
EventBritish Dietetics Association Research Symposium 2016 - , United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Dec 20167 Dec 2016


ConferenceBritish Dietetics Association Research Symposium 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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