The effects of whole-grain compared with refined wheat, rice, and rye on the postprandial blood glucose response: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Oct 1;108(4):759-774. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy112.


Background: Whole grains are often referred to collectively, despite differences in their composition, physical structure, processing, and potential health benefits.

Objective: The aim of this study was to compare the postprandial blood glucose response of whole-grain with refined wheat, rice, or rye, while controlling for the food delivery matrix and the processing of the grain (e.g., grinding, germination).

Design: Eleven electronic databases were systematically searched to identify studies published up to and including November 2017. Randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of whole-grain wheat, rice, or rye with those of each grain's refined counterpart on postprandial blood glucose area under the curve (AUC) were included. Pooled effect sizes were computed by using the difference in the blood glucose AUC after the consumption of the whole compared with the refined grain.

Results: Twenty publications were included, with 10, 14, and 5 strata (or active-control comparisons) on whole-grain wheat, rice, and rye, respectively. The consumption of ground (wholemeal) wheat, compared with white wheat, was not associated with a significant reduction in blood glucose AUC (-6.7 mmol/L ⋅ min; 95% CI: -25.1, 11.7 mmol/L ⋅ min; P = 0.477). The consumption of wholemeal rye, compared with endosperm rye, was not associated with a significant reduction in blood glucose AUC (-5.5 mmol/L ⋅ min; 95% CI: -24.8, 13.8 mmol/L ⋅ min; P = 0.576). The consumption of intact (whole-grain) rice, compared with white rice, was associated with a significant reduction in blood glucose AUC (-40.5 mmol/L ⋅ min; 95% CI: -59.6, -21.3 mmol/L ⋅ min; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Compared with white rice, whole-grain rice significantly attenuates the postprandial blood glucose response. In most of the studies on wheat and rye, the postprandial blood glucose responses to foods formulated with wholemeal compared with refined flours were compared. Whether reductions in the blood glucose AUC can be achieved with whole-grain (as opposed to wholemeal) wheat and rye requires further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Bread
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Flour
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oryza*
  • Postprandial Period*
  • Secale*
  • Triticum*
  • Whole Grains*
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fiber