9th December 2014: Wholegrains may be more protective against major chronic disease than fruits and vegetables, according to a new scientific review that analyses more than 300 meta-analyses and systematic reviews published over the past 60 years.1

The review, published in the December 2014 issue of Nutrition Reviews, aggregated the results of meta-analyses and systematic reviews published since 1950 to obtain an overview of the associations between food and beverage groups and diet-related chronic diseases. It found that plant food groups are more protective than animal food groups against diet-related chronic disease (DRCD), and that within plant food groups, wholegrain products are more likely to be protective against type 2 diabetes, CVD and cancers than fruits and vegetables.

According to the French researchers, the results are generally in agreement with food-based pyramids, except that grain products should probably be emphasised over fruits and vegetables, rather than the reverse.

“Grain products show promise as foods with a potential to reduce DRCD risk, most likely even more so than fruit and vegetables. Even more compelling, grain products are a superior source of energy, proteins and lipids and are less expensive and easier to store than fruit and vegetables,” the researchers said.

The data showed that wholegrains reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 27 per cent, cardiovascular disease up to 29 per cent, and cancer by up to 59 per cent. It also showed that high consumption of wholegrain cereal was associated with a significant reduction in body fat of 0.5kg over a 2-16 week period.

These findings are consistent with those from another 2014 review of more than 230 research papers over 30 years, which looked specifically at breakfast cereals and their impact on healthy diets, body weight, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and bowel health.Published in Advances in Nutrition in September 2014, it found that regularly eating wholegrain and high-fibre breakfast cereal is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (by 24 per cent) and cardiovascular disease (by 20-28 per cent).

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Director of the Australian Breakfast Cereals Manufacturers Forum Ms Leigh Reeve, said breakfast cereals were one of the key sources of wholegrains and fibre in Australians diets.

“More than half of all breakfast cereals (57 per cent) contain at least 16g of wholegrain per serve, meeting the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council’s criteria for being high in wholegrains,”3 said Ms Reeve.

“Fruits and vegetables are a very important source of fibre and nutrients but the research shows the strength of the evidence for grains foods, which have been somewhat overshadowed in recent times.”


  1. Fardet, A., 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 Reviews. 2014. Vol 72 (12):741-762.
  2. Williams PG. The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base. Adv Nutr 2014;5:636S-673S.
  3. GLNC. 2014 Audit of Core Grain Foods on Shelf in Australia. Unpublished: 2014.
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