12 December 2016: Eating more whole grains could help you live longer and reduce your risk of death from diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, according to several key meta-analysis and systematic literature reviews published in the past six months.
The recent papers show the health benefits are dose dependent and report that even a small increase in the amount of whole grain foods you eat has its benefits.
Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Director of the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum, Leigh Reeve said eating at least three serves of whole grains a day could help protect you against diet-related diseases, and even one extra serve had health benefits.
“This research reveals every serve of whole grains matters,” said Ms Reeve. “Importantly, adding more whole grains to your diet is an easy change, or swap, that won’t blow the budget.
“Whole grain breakfast cereals and breads are the major source of whole grains for Australians and these studies single out these popular foods for their ability to help people live longer and significantly reduce the risk of early death from heart disease or cancer.”
This new research builds on the strong evidence that shows higher intakes of whole grain foods help prevent diet-related disease and that whole grains are even more protective than fruit and vegetables. 1
- Whole grain consumption linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all cause mortality
Adding more whole grain foods to your diet could add years to your life, according to the most comprehensive review on whole grains and mortality to date.2
The review of 45 studies revealed people eating three serves of food containing at least 25% whole grains (90g of food) had a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (19%), cardiovascular disease (22%), cancer (15%), and all cause mortality (17%). Three serves is equal to two slices of whole grain bread and a serve of whole grain cereal.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal in June, also showed that additional serves of whole grains, up to seven serves a day, further reduced the risk of most diseases.
Lead by the Imperial College of London, researchers reported the biggest relative reduction in disease risk was seen between people who ate two serves a day and those who ate no whole grains. Wholegrain breakfast cereals, whole grain breads and added bran were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality, but specific grain types had not been studied.
- Increased whole grain consumption associated with reduced risk of death from all causes, CVD and cancer
Boosting your whole grain intake, even a little, may provide big benefits against chronic disease, according to a recent meta-analysis by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.3
The study, published in Circulation in June, revealed people who ate three serves of whole grains (50g of whole grain content) a day, had a 16% lower risk of total mortality, a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease (18%) and cancer (12%), compared with those who ate little or no whole grains.
Researchers reported eating just one extra serve of whole grains (16g whole grain content) a day, reduced the relative risk of premature death by 7%, the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 9% and death from cancer by 5%.
The meta-analysis covered 14 long-term studies, including unpublished results from large national health surveys in the US (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [NHANES] III and NHANES 1999-2004). The researchers noted multiple bioactive compounds in whole grains could contribute to their health benefits and that high fibre content may lower cholesterol production, glucose response and increase satiety.
- Whole grains linked to low risk of all cause mortality, CVD and diabetes
A meta-analyisis of 10 cohort studies, published in Medicine in August, reported people eating an additional serve of food containing at least 25% whole grains (30g of food) a day reduced their risk of total mortality by 7%, death due to cardiovascular disease by 5% and coronary heart disease by 8%.4
- Greater whole grain intake reduces risk of death from all causes, CVD and cancer
A study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May, revealed eating an extra three serves of whole grains (50g of whole grain content) a day was shown to reduce the risk of total mortality (22%) and mortality due cardiovascular disease (30%) or cancer (18%).5 The meta-analysis and systematic literature review also found higher intakes of whole grain breakfast cereal and whole grain breads were associated with reduced risk.
- Whole grain consumption associated with reduced risk of death from CVD, cancer and all causes
A smaller meta-analysis, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in June, found associations between reduced risk of death from similar diet-related chronic diseases and total mortality with three serves of food containing at least 25% whole grains a day (90g of food).6
- Fardet A and Boirie Y. “Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews.” Nutr Rev 2014;72(12): 741-762.
- Aune D, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” BMJ 2016;353:i2716 doi:10.1136/bmj.i2716
- Zong G et al. Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Circulation 2016;133(24): 2370-2380.
- Li B, et al. Consumption of whole grains in relation to mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes: Dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Medicine 2016;95(33): e4229.
- Chen G-C, et al. Whole-grain intake and total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2016;104:164–72.
- Wei H, et al. Whole-grain consumption and the risk of all-cause, CVD and cancer mortality: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BJN 2016; 116:514–525. doi:10.1017/S0007114516001975
- Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. 2014 Grains & Legumes Consumption & Attitudinal Study. Accessed 5 August 2015.
- Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, Australian Breakfast Cereal Audit, Sydney, December 2015.
The Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council recommends choosing whole grains for at least half of your six serves of grain food each day. In Australia, 43% of whole grain intake comes from breakfast cereals and 42% from breads.7
A recent Australian audit showed 60% of cereals in the breakfast cereal aisle of the supermarket provide at least one serve of whole grains (16g of whole grain content).8 Among those, 180 products provided 1 ½ serves of whole grains (24g of whole grain content).8