People who eat a diet high in fibre-rich whole grains are less likely to develop diabetes or heart disease, according to a review of past studies.
The analysis was conducted for the American Society for Nutrition. In a position statement, the group said evidence suggests foods with cereal fibre or mixtures of whole grains and bran are "modestly associated" with a reduced disease risk.
The strongest evidence for benefit came from cereal fibre, which includes breakfast cereals as well as breads and brown rice with a high fibre content listed on the label.
The research team from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston reviewed 28 studies that looked at the risk of developing diabetes among people who ate different amounts of whole grain and bran, 33 studies on the risk of cardiovascular disease and 19 on obesity.
Overall, people who ate the most cereal fibre or whole grains and bran had an 18 to 40 percent lower risk of diabetes than those who ate the least.
Likewise, people with diets high in cereal fibre had a 22 to 43 percent lower risk of stroke across the studies and were 14 to 26 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
Fibre-rich grains were also tied to a lower body weight, but the effect was small.
Because none of the studies randomly assigned people to eat different amounts of whole grains, including cereal fibre, they can't prove it was the fibre, itself, that prevented diabetes and heart disease.
It's possible that people who eat cereal fibre feel full longer, and therefore don't eat as much, and they're leaner. People with diets high in fibre may be healthy in other ways.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online June 26, 2013.
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