New study shows benefits of whole grain intake

by Eric Schroeder
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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A new study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine showed a diet high in whole grain foods is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.

"Consuming an average of 2.5 servings of whole grains each day is associated with a 21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to consuming only 0.2 servings," said Philip Mellen, M.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor of internal medicine. "These findings suggest that we should redouble our efforts to encourage patients to include more of these foods in their diets."

The results were published on-line April 20 in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases and will appear in a future print issue of the magazine.

The findings were based on an analysis of seven studies involving more than 285,000 people. The researchers said they combined the data from the seven studies — conducted between 1966 and April 2006 — in order to determine results that may not have shown up in each individual study.

The findings were consistent with earlier research, and Dr. Mellen stressed the importance of getting the word out on the benefits of whole grain intake.

"Many consumers and health professionals are unaware of the health benefits of whole grains," Dr. Mellen said.

In addition to protecting against cardiovascular disease, there is growing evidence that whole grains also protect against diabetes and other chronic conditions.

"Years ago, scientists hypothesized that the higher rates of chronic diseases we have in the West, including heart disease, are due, in part, to a diet full of processed foods," Dr. Mellen said. "Subsequent studies have born that out — especially with whole grains. Greater whole grain intake is associated with less obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — major factors that increase the risk for heart disease and stroke."

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