Brain and Body

Eating 3 Servings of Whole Grain a Day Linked to Lower Risk of Dying Early

June 15, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Vegan Nine grain whole wheat bread
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According to a new meta-analysis of studies.

The US Dietary Guidelines recommend eating three or more servings of whole grains every day, but according to a new study published in the journal Circulation, Americans eat an average of less than one serving a day.

This is problematic because the meta-analysis also reveals that eating a diet rich in whole grains may reduce the risk of dying early.

The researchers, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, investigated 14 studies, all of which were at least six years long and many surpassing 10 years. The analysis looked at a total of more than 786,000 people, and 98,000 deaths — including more than 37,000 from cancer and 23,000 from heart disease.

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According to the results, people who reported consuming at least three servings of whole grains a day were 20 percent less likely to die early from any cause compared to those who ate only one serving a day.

When the researchers looked into specific causes of death, they found that three whole-grain servings was linked with a 25 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease and a 14 percent lower risk of death from cancer.

Further, each serving of whole grains (0.5 ounces or 16 grams) was associated with a 7 percent reduction in an individual’s risk of death from any cause. The specific calculations showed that each whole grain serving was linked with a 9 percent reduction in risk of heart disease and a 5 percent lower chance of death from cancer, according to the meta-analysis.

The researchers explain that multiple bioactive compounds in whole grains could contribute to these health benefits, and their high fiber content may help lower cholesterol production and make people feel fuller so they consume fewer calories. Additionally, the researchers note the glucose response may be decreased.

“These findings further support current dietary guidelines that recommend at least 3 daily servings (or 48 grams) of whole grains to improve long-term health and prevent premature death,” senior author Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, said in a press statement.

A notable limitation of the research is that most of the studies included in the analysis were from the US and Scandinavia, so future research would be needed to confirm if these findings would hold true across general populations. Moreover, there was a large variation in which types of whole grains were consumed in each study.

Still, the researchers believe that “health care providers should unanimously recommend whole grain consumption to the general population, as well as patients with certain diseases, to help achieve better health and perhaps reduce death,” Sun told Live Science.

To get the nutritional benefits of whole grains, the researchers recommend choosing foods that are high in whole grain ingredients, like bran, oatmeal, and quinoa, and eating at least 16 grams per serving.

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