People who eat plenty of whole grains are less likely than others to die of cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to a new analysis of previous studies by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
The American Heart Association and Health Canada recommend that at least half of the grains we consume be whole grains, like oats, barley, brown rice and 100% whole grain bread.
It’s well known that whole grain consumption can reduce risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer. But there has not been a larger analysis of whole grain intake and overall death.
Researchers pooled the results of 14 long-term studies of whole grain intake and risk of death that involved a total of 786,076 people, including 97,867 who died during the studies. Almost 24,000 died of cardiovascular disease and more than 37,000 from cancer.
Ten studies took place in the U.S., three in Scandinavia and one in the U.K. All of the studies used questionnaires to estimate whole grain intake.
People who ate the most whole grains were about 16 percent less likely to die of any cause during the study than those who ate the least, almost 20 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and more than 10 percent less likely to die of cancer.
What's a serving?
For every additional serving of 16 grams of whole grains (one full serving), cardiovascular disease-related death risk declined by 9 percent and cancer death risk by five percent.
A half-cup of cooked brown rice, cooked oatmeal, or cooked 100 percent whole grain pasta or one slice of 100 percent whole grain bread is the equivalent of 16 grams, or one serving.
Whole-grain nutrients are released in the digestive tract more slowly than refined grains, and we tend to chew them longer which stimulates the released of more satiety hormones.
Whole grains are high in fibre, which helps reduce unhealthy blood cholesterol levels and increase insulin sensitivity, which helps control blood sugar. Whole grains also provide beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
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