March 2018: New research continues to highlight wide-ranging health benefits of having a diet that is higher in whole grains and fibre, from reducing belly fat to lowering your risk of stroke.

Yet many Australians are missing out on the health benefits. The 2011-12 Australian Health Survey data shows less than a third of men and a quarter of women meet their recommended intake for dietary fibre, with even fewer reaching the slightly higher target linked to helping prevent chronic disease (28g women, 38g men per day).1,2 Similarly only a quarter of Australians (nine years and older) are eating enough whole grains.3

Below is a summary of key research on the benefits of whole grains and fibre from the past six months.


Blast belly fat by eating more whole grains and fibre

Upping the exercise and eating more whole grains and fibre could be the secrets to losing belly fat according to a recent European study.4

Researchers examined data from 1441 participants in seven European countries as part of the FOOD4ME study.4

They found more exercise and diets higher in whole grains and fibre were the top lifestyle factors linked with less belly fat, a lower BMI and a nearly 4cm slimmer waist.4

The findings, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also showed age and eating more processed meat and red meat were the main lifestyle factors associated with carrying more belly fat, having a higher BMI and a larger waist.4


Whole grain breakfast cereal and bran linked to reduced risk of stroke

Eating whole grain breakfast cereals at least once a week has been associated with a lower risk of having a stroke.5

Researchers studied whole grain consumption in relation to ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, among 71 750 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 42 823 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.5

They found those eating whole grain breakfast cereal at least once a week were 12% less likely to have an ischaemic stroke, compared to those who only ate whole grain breakfast cereal once a month.5

The study, published in the journal Stroke, also showed people who ate the most bran were 11% less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least.5 There was no link found between the consumption of whole grains in general, or other whole grain foods.5


How much whole grain foods should you eat to live longer?

Eating 28g of whole grains a day can help you live longer according to a new study that examined the diets of more than one million people.6

The Shandong University researchers found eating 28g per day of whole grains was associated with a 9% lower risk of dying from any cause, 14% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 3% lower risk of dying from cancer, compared to people eating no whole grains.6

The study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined dietary data from more than one million people that had been collect as part of 19 prospective cohort studies.6

Eating 28g of whole grains is as simple as including two serves of whole grains into your diet. Starting the day with wholegrain cereal and choosing a grainy bread for your sandwich would do the trick.6


World experts confirm health benefits of whole grains from reduced cancer risk to healthier weight

Losing weight and living longer are among a wide range of health benefits leading international nutrition academics and scientists have confirmed about whole grains.7

The International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium reviewed the scientific research on whole grains and confirmed there was strong evidence that eating whole grains was linked to living longer by reducing the risk of being overweight and obese and of having type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and possibly colorectal cancer.7

It’s consensus statement also identified:

– A diet rich in whole grains was important in assisting weight control in overweight and obese individuals,
– A high intake of dietary fibre, in particular cereal fibre from whole grains, was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, findings supported by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and
– Milled barley and oats had a beneficial effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as blood pressure.7


Psyllium linked to better blood pressure

Do you add psyllium to your brekkie bowl? Well it could be doing more than just helping to keep you regular.8

A recent Canadian review of 22 research studies revealed for the first time that psyllium fibre helped to lower blood pressure.8

Psyllium was the only individual fibre to show a significant effect on systolic blood pressure, lowering it by 2.39 mmHg.8

The study8, published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, also showed that total soluble fibre, from foods like oats, barley and psyllium had a small but significant effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The benefits were greater for people with high blood pressure.8


How much cereal fibre are Aussie’s eating?

In a world first, Australian researchers have identified just how much cereal fibre we are eating.

The University of Wollongong research, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, showed Australian adults were consuming 6.4g of cereal fibre a day on average – this is only half of the amount adults need for good health.9

The top sources of cereal fibre were breakfast cereals, bread and bread rolls.9 Those with the highest cereal fibre intakes were also more likely to meet their recommended intakes for dietary fibre.9

University of Wollongong researchers highlighted there was extensive evidence supporting the health benefits of cereal fibre but until now, no data, anywhere in the world, on just how much people were consuming.9 Cereal fibre has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease including heart disease and some cancers.

The researchers also created a database of the cereal fibre content of almost 2,000 foods that can be used for future studies to pinpoint health benefits related to cereal fibre.10


New insights on how barley helps to lower cholesterol

New research is helping us to better understand how the fibre in barley helps to lower cholesterol.12

Findings from a recent Canadian trial, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed barley betaglucans helped to lower cholesterol by affecting bile acid synthesis, not by limiting cholesterol absorption or synthesis.12


Increasing Australia’s grain fibre intake could save the economy up to $3.3 billion a year

If Australian’s upped their fibre intake it could dramatically reduce cases of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, saving the economy $1.5 billion, according to recent research.2

An analysis by Nutrition Research Australia and Deloitte Access Economics, published in Nutrients, found if Australians added just one extra serve of high fibre grain foods (4-5g extra fibre) a day to their diet, it could potentially prevent 190, 000 cases of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes and save the economy $1.5 billion.2

One extra serve is equal to a bowl of high fibre breakfast cereal or porridge, 2 slices of wholemeal bread or ½-1 cup brown rice or whole grain pasta. If Australians ate two to three extra serves, it could have around twice the effect, potentially saving $3.3 billion a year.2



  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Canberra: ABS; 2014. (Available from:
  2. Fayet-Moore, F et al. Healthcare Expenditure and Productivity Cost Savings from Reductions in Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes Associated with Increased Intake of Cereal Fibre among Australian Adults: A Cost of Illness Analysis. Nutrients 2018, 10(1), 34; doi:10.3390/nu10010034
  3. Galea LM, Beck EJ, Probst YC, Cashman CJ. Whole grain intake of Australians estimated from a cross-sectional analysis of dietary intake data from the 2011–13 Australian Health Survey. Public Health Nutrition. 2017;20(12):2166–72.
  4. Celis-Morales, C et al. Correlates of overall and central obesity in adults from seven European countries: findings from the Food4Me Study .European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2018) 72:207–219
  5. Juan J, Liu G, Willett WC, Hu FB, Rexrode KM, Sun Q. Whole Grain Consumption and Risk of Ischemic Stroke. Stroke 2017; 48(12):3203.
  6. Zhang, B et al. Association of whole grain intake with all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis from prospective cohort studies. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition volume72, pages 57–65 (2018) doi:10.1038/ejcn.2017.149
  7. International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium. ICQC Scientific Consensus on Whole Grains; 2017
  8. Khan K, Jovanovski E, Ho HVT et al. The effect of viscous soluble fiber on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2017
  9. Barrett EM, Probst YC, Beck EJ. Cereal fibre intake in Australia: a cross-sectional analysis of the 2011–12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2017; 1-9.
  10. Barrett EM, Probst YC, Beck EJ. Creation of a database for the estimation of cereal fibre content in foods. J Food Compost Anal 2017.
  11. Wang Y, Harding SV, Thandapilly SJ, Tosh SM, Jones PJH, Ames NP. Barley β-glucan reduces blood cholesterol levels via interrupting bile acid metabolism. Br J Nutr 2017;118(10):822-9.
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