Objective: Whole-grain foods are touted for multiple health benefits, including enhancing insulin sensitivity and reducing type 2 diabetes risk. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with fasting glucose and insulin concentrations in individuals free of diabetes. We tested the hypothesis that whole-grain food intake and genetic variation interact to influence concentrations of fasting glucose and insulin.
Research design and methods: Via meta-analysis of data from 14 cohorts comprising ∼ 48,000 participants of European descent, we studied interactions of whole-grain intake with loci previously associated in GWAS with fasting glucose (16 loci) and/or insulin (2 loci) concentrations. For tests of interaction, we considered a P value <0.0028 (0.05 of 18 tests) as statistically significant.
Results: Greater whole-grain food intake was associated with lower fasting glucose and insulin concentrations independent of demographics, other dietary and lifestyle factors, and BMI (β [95% CI] per 1-serving-greater whole-grain intake: -0.009 mmol/l glucose [-0.013 to -0.005], P < 0.0001 and -0.011 pmol/l [ln] insulin [-0.015 to -0.007], P = 0.0003). No interactions met our multiple testing-adjusted statistical significance threshold. The strongest SNP interaction with whole-grain intake was rs780094 (GCKR) for fasting insulin (P = 0.006), where greater whole-grain intake was associated with a smaller reduction in fasting insulin concentrations in those with the insulin-raising allele.
Conclusions: Our results support the favorable association of whole-grain intake with fasting glucose and insulin and suggest a potential interaction between variation in GCKR and whole-grain intake in influencing fasting insulin concentrations.