2 October 2009
Moving Towards Whole-Grains to Protect the Health of Singaporeans
The Dietary Guidelines for adult Singaporeans recommend the intake of 5-7 servings of rice and alternatives (of which at least one serving should be a wholegrain product), 2 servings of fruit, 2 servings of vegetables, and 2-3 servings of meat and alternatives a day.
2 Data from the 2004 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) found that more than half of Singapore s adult population consumed adequate amounts of rice and alternatives (54.6%). However, only 1 in 10 of adult Singaporeans consumed a serving of whole-grain foods or more. The average consumption of whole-grains foods was found to be only 0.2 servings per day.
Contribution of carbohydrates to total diet: an international comparison
3 The data showed that, comparatively, Singaporeans consumed proportionately less fat, but more carbohydrates than populations in western countries. However, this finding is not necessarily favourable because the type of carbohydrates consumed locally are largely refined.
4 Our national diet is proportionately high in refined carbohydrates and sorely lacking in unrefined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrate foods are generally rich in starch but are poorer sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (beneficial plant substances), all of which are found in unrefined carbohydrates.
Refined vs. unrefined carbohydrates
5 Recent evidence has shown that the large majority of carbohydrates in current industrial diets, consisting of refined starches and sugars, have adverse metabolic effects and increase the risk for obesity, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
6 A high intake of refined grains (e.g. white rice, white bread, refined noodles) causes a rapid spike in blood sugar, followed by a similar surge in insulin. The surge in insulin typically causes a sharp fall in blood sugar, thereby triggering hunger and overeating.
7 It is also possible that repeated stimulation of insulin output by a high refined-carbohydrate diet could speed up an age-related decline in insulin secretion. Coupled with reduced tissue sensitivity to insulin due to physical inactivity and excessive body fatness, this could lead to an earlier onset of insulin resistance in certain populations. Insulin resistance may ultimately lead to the occurrence of diabetes. In Singapore 8.2% of its residents aged 18-69 years have diabetes, and 12.0% have impaired glucose tolerance.
8 This finding may partly explain why rural populations who are lean and active are able to consume larger quantities of refined carbohydrates without experiencing adverse effects, whereas the same high carbohydrate diet in a sedentary population like Singapore can have devastating consequences.
9 On the other hand, studies have shown that a diet rich in unrefined carbohydrates (i.e. whole-grain foods) can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. There is also evidence suggesting that whole-grains may help in weight management and protect against certain cancers. Revised whole-grain dietary recommendation
10 Based on scientific evidence as well as comparing dietary recommendations of other developed countries, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is recommending a revision in the whole-grain guideline for adult Singaporeans to consume two - three servings of whole-grain foods (or 50g of whole-grains) every day. This upward revision from the previous recommended one serving of whole-grain foods each day will still be derived from the rice and alternatives food grouping of the Healthy Diet Pyramid.
Revised Healthy Diet Pyramid illustration
11 In line with this updated recommendation, changes have been made to the Healthy Diet Pyramid graphic to reflect that half of the total servings from the Rice and Alternatives food group should be whole-grains.
Eat more whole-grains campaign
12 HPB will embark on an educational campaign from October 2009 to communicate to the public about the importance of incorporating whole-grains into their daily diet. The campaign will explain what whole-grains are, the link between a diet rich in whole-grains and health, why whole-grains are an important dietary requirement, the recommended amounts of whole-grains to eat, where whole-grain foods can be found and how whole-grain foods can be prepared and creatively incorporated into the daily diet.
New guidance for food manufacturers/importers on whole-grain food labelling
13 Currently, food products which carry claims such as wholegrain , wholewheat , and similar related descriptions, have varying levels of whole-grain content. Over the last few years, HPB has been actively engaging the F&B industry with regard to the whole-grains programme. To enable consumers to select food products that have a substantial amount of whole-grains which will contribute towards achieving the recommended daily amount of whole-grains, HPB has introduced a Higher in Whole-grains HCS (Healthier Choice Symbol) logo.
14 Products that carry this logo must meet a certain level of whole-grain content (depending on food category) and declare this level on the product label. By using the Higher in Whole-grains HCS logo as a purchasing guide, consumers can make informed and healthier food choices. Approximately 70 food products (to-date) have been approved to carry the new HCS Higher in Whole-grains logo.
Working with food retailers and food outlets to increase accessibility to whole-grains
15 Major supermarket chains such as FairPrice, Cold Storage, Shop N Save outlets will feature targeted in-store promotions on whole-grain products throughout the month of October 2009. Cooking demonstrations incorporating whole-grain foods will be held during the week-ends in October at selected supermarket branches of the previously mentioned supermarket chains.
16 HPB has also worked with various food outlets such as restaurants, cafes, quick service restaurants, and even hawker food stalls to offer whole-grain dishes/ items to diners. Some of these outlets have specially created new offerings using whole-grains.
More outreach efforts to create awareness of whole-grains to the public
Wellness culinary classes
17 Wellness culinary classes are being conducted at selected People s Association community clubs at twelve districts with Wellness Centres. Located in various districts throughout Singapore, three to four recipes will be taught per culinary cooking session, and whole-grains will be included for some of the recipes.
18 Supermarket tours, including customised tours for those with chronic conditions, will be available to the general public. While visiting the supermarket, they will be taught how to make healthier food purchases, how to interpret food labels (especially the Nutrition Information Panel) on the packaging of food products, how to recognise the Healthier Choice Symbol and to choose such healthier food options. Recipes and cooking demo videos hosted on HPB website
19 Recipes of dishes featuring whole-grain ingredients will be available on the HPB website, www.hpb.gov.sg/foodforhealth. The recipe section is highly interactive, and will allow members of the public to share their whole-grain recipes.
 National Health Survey 2004