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Want to live longer? Eat whole grain foods, suggests new Harvard study

15 January 2015

The consumption of whole grain foods may lead to longer life reveals an article published in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. Daily consumption of 28 g of whole grain (especially bran or outer parts of the grain) may lower total mortality by 5% and mortality due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 9%. This amount, however may not affect the risk of mortality due to cancer.

The conclusions are based on the data collected during two large prospective studies (26-year-long and 24-year-long) that recruited in total 118 085 American men and women and who were free of CVD and cancer at the start of the studies. Participants were at ages between 30 and 87 years.

The authors of the article argue that though whole grain is well known for its beneficial effect on blood lipid and glucose metabolism there are still inconsistent data regarding its effect on mortality.  Additionally, the contrasting results across previous studies are due to for example the differences in dietary assessment, varying definition of whole grain foods or the heterogeneity among participants and their lifestyle. In the recent study the researchers estimated the intakes of whole grain from all grain-containing foods (whole grain rice, bread, pasta, cereal bran and germ, and breakfast cereal) according to the dry weight of the whole grain in each food. The information about the intakes were gathered using food frequency questionnaires that were updated every 2 or 4 years. Wu and colleagues examined the number of deaths among participants and measured the risks related to deaths. The analyses were adjusted by important cofounders such as age, physical activity, smoking and BMI.

The findings presented by Wu et al. add to the list of health benefits of whole grain by demonstrating the potential of the grain to extend life expectancy. They also support the current dietary guidelines that recommend increasing consumption of whole grain for the prevention of chronic diseases. [JAMA Internal Medicine]

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