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Ethnic differences in grains consumption and their contribution to intake of B-vitamins: results of the Multiethnic Cohort Study

Sangita Sharma1*, Tony Sheehy2 and Laurence N Kolonel3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Aboriginal and Global Health Research Group, University of Alberta, 5-10 University Terrace, 8303 112 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2T4, Canada

2 Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Republic of Ireland

3 Epidemiology Program, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, 1236 Lauhala Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:65  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-65

Published: 20 May 2013



Research indicates that a diet rich in whole grains may reduce the risk of prevalent chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers, and that risk for these diseases varies by ethnicity. The objective of the current study was to identify major dietary sources of grains and describe their contribution to B vitamins in five ethnic groups.


A cross-sectional mail survey was used to collect data from participants in the Multiethnic Cohort Study in Hawaii and Los Angeles County, United States, from 1993 to 1996. Dietary intake data collected using a quantitative food frequency questionnaire was available for 186,916 participants representing five ethnic groups (African American, Latino, Japanese American, Native Hawaiian and Caucasian) aged 45–75 years. The top sources of grain foods were determined, and their contribution to thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folic acid intakes were analyzed.


The top source of whole grains was whole wheat/rye bread for all ethnic-sex groups, followed by popcorn and cooked cereals, except for Native Hawaiian men and Japanese Americans, for whom brown/wild rice was the second top source; major contributors of refined grains were white rice and white bread, except for Latinos. Refined grain foods contributed more to grain consumption (27.1-55.6%) than whole grain foods (7.4-30.8%) among all ethnic-sex groups, except African American women. Grain foods made an important contribution to the intakes of thiamin (30.2-45.9%), riboflavin (23.1-29.2%), niacin (27.1-35.8%), vitamin B6 (22.9-27.5%), and folic acid (23.3-27.7%).


This is the first study to document consumption of different grain sources and their contribution to B vitamins in five ethnic groups in the U.S. Findings can be used to assess unhealthful food choices, to guide dietary recommendations, and to help reduce risk of chronic diseases in these populations.

Whole grains; Refined grains; B vitamins; Ethnicity