Heart healthy grains: Increasing intake each day linked to longer life

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Whole grains such as bran, oatmeal, quinoa have been shown to provide a number of health benefits to an individual. (© iStock.com)
Whole grains such as bran, oatmeal, quinoa have been shown to provide a number of health benefits to an individual. (© iStock.com)

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Eating at least three servings of whole grains (WG) every day could lower the risk of a cardiovascular disease-related death according to research.

The findings give further cause for individuals to up their whole grain intake. While current dietary guidelines worldwide have included whole grains as part of a healthy diet, the study believes that people still aren’t eating enough.

Researchers noted that for about every serving (16 g) of whole grains there was a 7% decreased risk in total deaths, and a 9% decline in cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

When three servings (48 g) were consumed daily there was a 20% decrease for total deaths and a 25% decrease of suffering a cardiovascular disease-related death.

The review, carried out by the team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, looked at a total of twelve studies. Of the reviewed studies, 10 were conducted using US populations, three in Scandinavian countries and one in the United Kingdom.

In total, the studies looked at 786,076 men and women with 97,867 total deaths, and 23,597 deaths from cardiovascular disease.

“Previous studies have suggested an association with consumption of whole grains and reduced risk of developing a multitude of chronic diseases that are among the top causes of deaths, although data linking whole grain intake and mortality were less consistent,”​ said Dr Qi Sun, senior author of the study and assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

“These findings lend further support to government dietary guidelines, which suggest higher consumption of whole grains to facilitate disease prevention.”

EU dietary guidelines

iron blood anemia women
Whole grains contain minerals and constituents, including Fe. (© iStock.com)

Observed benefits, such as reducing inflammation,​ improving blood lipid profile and, and lowering blood pressure​, as well as a number of metabolic and hormonal effects have been attributed to an increased intake of whole grains.

These observations have resulted in recommendations for intake and health claims in the US although, to date, there have not been any claims​ approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Recommendations for whole grain consumption vary among countries.  In Denmark, the recommended intake of whole grain is higher at a minimum of 75 g of whole grains daily or 60 g/day.

Currently, no specific dietary recommendations for whole grain are present in the UK, other than recommending ‘choosing whole grain, brown or high fibre varieties wherever you can.’

Wholegrain’s value

mediterranean diet
The UK Government's Eatwell guide is an example of what we should be eating as part of living a healthy lifestyle. (© iStock.com)

The study identified a number of bioactive compounds in WGs that could explain their health enhancing properties.

“The high fibre content may lower cholesterol production and glucose response and increase satiety, partially through inducing the production of short-chain fatty acids, which also lower carcinogenic potential,”​ the study reported.  

“The high magnesium content in WGs may improve insulin sensitivity, suppress glucose update, and lower blood pressure.”

WGs also contain other minerals and constituents, including Fe, Zn, Cu, Se, polyphenols, carotenoids, and tocopherols, thus may decrease the oxidative stress​ that characterise many chronic diseases.

Source: Circulation

Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.021101

“Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer.”

Authors: Geng Zong, Alisa Gao, Frank Hu, Qi Sun, 

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1 comment

wholegrain phenolics underestimated?

Posted by GWilliard,

There's some evidence that healthy polyphenols from wholegrains have been underestimated in the past because 'bound' -- but still beneficial when 'freed' lower in the GI tract by flora. So, say, rye may be more like broccoli and spinach that is given credit for! Research cite here: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=65

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