Harvard study links whole grains, fiber to lower death risk

by Jeff Gelski
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People with the highest intake of whole grains had a 17% lower risk of all-cause mortality.

BOSTON — A study involving researchers from Harvard found eating whole grains and cereal fiber was inversely associated with reduced total mortality and cause-specific mortality. The study, which included 367,442 people, appeared on-line March 24 in BMC Medicine.

Eating whole grains was inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality and death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, infections and other causes. People with the highest intake of whole grains, or in the highest quintile, had a 17% lower risk of all-cause mortality while the percentages for disease-specific mortality ranged from 11% to 48% for people in the highest quintile.

People with the highest intake of cereal fiber had a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality while the percentages for disease-specific mortality ranged from 15% to 34%.

“Our data suggest cereal fiber is one potentially protective component,” the researchers said.

The study involved people who enrolled in 1995 in the prospective NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, which was developed at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The study included AARP members from the ages of 50 to 71 who came from the six states of California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and the two cities of Atlanta and Detroit.

In their study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Medical School and NutraSource excluded people who at baseline had cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and self-reported, end-stage renal disease. At baseline, dietary intake was assessed with a self-administered, 124-item food frequency questionnaire. Over 14 years of follow-up, 46,067 deaths were documented, including 11,283 from cardiovascular disease, 19,043 from cancer, 371 from diabetes, 3,796 from respiratory disease, 922 from infection and 5,223 from other causes.

A research fund from NutraSource funded the study.
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