Whole Grains for Wholesome Health

Whole grain intake tied to lower overall mortality and cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) That whole-grain bread is good for more than just a tasty sandwich — it may help you live longer.

A large study found that people who ate the most whole grains were more likely to live longer and have fewer heart problems.

"This study is a great springboard for further research," said Tina Marinaccio, MS, a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Registered Dietitian (RD) from Morristown, New Jersey. She told dailyRx News that it's hard to tell whether other lifestyle factors, such as alcohol habits and physical activity, led to the health benefits or if it was specifically eating more whole grains.

"It may be that people who consume more whole grains also eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fats, making it difficult to tease out specifically whole grains here," Marinaccio said. "The study is consistent, however, with other findings, that increasing bran, which is rich in phytochemicals, is significantly associated with reducing risk of various chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease."

The authors of this study, led by Hongyu Wu, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote that their findings "support current dietary guidelines that recommend increasing whole grain consumption ... and also provide promising evidence that suggests a diet enriched with whole grains may confer benefits toward extended life expectancy."

Researchers have long believed that whole grains are healthier than their non-whole-grain counterparts. Whole-grain bread is thought to be healthier than white, more processed bread, for instance.

Dr. Wu and colleagues looked at the association between eating whole grains and the risk of death in more than 118,000 people.

Whole grains are whole wheat and whole wheat flour, whole oats and whole oat flour, whole cornmeal and whole corn flour, whole rye and whole rye flour, whole barley, bulgur, buckwheat, brown rice and brown rice flour, popcorn, amaranth and psyllium.

Dr. Wu and team also determined how much oat or wheat bran and added wheat germ the study patients ate. They compared the patients who ate the fewest whole grains with those who ate the most.

The research team estimated that every average daily serving of whole grains was tied to a 5 percent decrease in death risk overall and a 9 percent decrease in death risk from heart problems over the 26 years of the study.

A serving of whole grains was considered to be 28 grams per day. One daily serving of whole grains was not tied to a decreased risk of cancer, Dr. Wu and team found.

This study was published online Jan. 5 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded this research. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 2, 2015
Last Updated:
January 8, 2015