Whole Grain Cereals Prolong Men's Life
Men who eat whole grain cereals have lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and all other causes than men who eat refined grain cereals, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003;77:594–9).
Current dietary recommendations emphasize grain products as part of the foundation of a balanced diet. Unrefined whole grains contain abundant amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients. Highly refined grains, on the other hand, which are the most common type of grain products eaten in the United States, provide substantially smaller quantities of these important nutrients. There is a growing awareness of the importance of the quality, as much as the quantity, of grains in the diet. Several studies have found that increased consumption of whole grains reduces risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and other studies have linked high consumption of refined grain products with type 2 diabetes and risk of death from all causes.
The current study came out of data collected during the Physicians’ Health Study, in which over 86,000 male physicians in the United States participated. Study participants completed a food-frequency questionnaire and were ranked according to their consumption of whole grain breakfast cereals, refined grain breakfast cereals, and total breakfast cereals. Whole grain cereals were defined as those containing at least 25% whole grain or bran by weight. Follow-up was conducted over an average of 5.5 years.
Analysis of the data revealed a significant reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and death from all causes in the men eating the greatest quantity of whole grain cereals compared with those eating the fewest servings of whole grain cereals. Neither refined grain cereal nor total cereal intake, however, had any effect on risk of death from cardiovascular or other causes. These results remained significant after taking into account other factors of diet and lifestyle known to be associated with risk of cardiovascular and all causes of death such as smoking, exercise, weight, vegetable intake, and use of multivitamins. Men eating one or more servings of whole grain cereals per day had approximately a 20% lower risk of death from cardiovascular and other causes compared with men never or rarely eating whole grain cereals.
The results of this study contribute to our understanding of the importance of whole grains in the diet. Future dietary recommendations should include guidelines for evaluating the quality of grain products based on their whole grain content. It is noteworthy that only 12% of the men in this study, all of whom were highly educated and theoretically knowledgeable about health, reported eating at least one serving of whole grain cereals per day, suggesting a societal lack of understanding of the nutritional value of whole grains.
Other behaviors shown to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight for your height, practicing regular physical activity, consuming large amounts of vegetables, and taking a multivitamin.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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