Consumption of whole grains have been associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases in many observational studies; yet, results of intervention studies are mixed. We aimed to use evidence mapping to capture the methodological and reporting variability in whole grain intervention studies that may contribute to this inconsistency. We conducted a reproducible search in OVID Medline for whole grain human intervention studies (published 1946 to February 2018). After screening based on a priori criteria, we identified 202 publications describing a total of 213 unique trials. Over half (55%) were acute trials, lasting ≤1 day, 30% were moderate duration studies (up to 6 weeks) and 15% were of longer duration (more than 6 weeks). The majority of acute trials (75%) examined measures of glycaemia and/or insulinemia, while most of the longer trials included measures of cardiometabolic health (71%), appetite/satiety (57%) and weight/adiposity (56%). Among the moderate and long duration trials, there was a wide range of how whole grains were described but only 10 publications referenced an established definition. Only 55% of trials reported the actual amount of whole grains (in grams or servings), while 36% reported the amount of food/product and 9% did not report a dose at all. Of the interventions that provided a mixture of whole grains, less than half (46%) reported the distribution of the different grain types. Reporting of subject compliance also varied and only 22% used independent biomarkers of whole grain intake. This evidence map highlights the need to standardize both study protocols and reporting practices to support effective synthesis of study results and provide a stronger foundation to better inform nutrition scientists and public health policy.
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