By Dr. Janet Brill
In their ongoing investigation of over 74,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984–2010) and almost 44,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–2010), 2 large prospective cohort studies, Harvard researchers* have some new and exciting findings to report.
The results? Whole grain intake was significantly and inversely associated with a reduction in risk of total mortality (9% ) and a reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular disease (15% reduction in risk) in American men and women, independent of other dietary and lifestyle factors. More specifically, bran intake showed a similar inverse association of total mortality (6% reduction in risk of death) and cardiovascular disease mortality (a whopping 20% reduction in risk of death), whereas the wheat germ showed no association.
These results add to the considerable body of scientific evidence showing the spectacular health benefits of consuming whole grains on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the average American eats less than one serving per day, and almost half of all Americans never eat whole grains at all. (Younger adults tend to eat less than one serving daily.)
A kernel of wheat grain contains three parts: the germ, endosperm and bran. Refined grains consist of only the endosperm, hence have lost the life-extending bran portion. Furthermore, all three components contain the plant storage protein known as gluten, a component of grains currently shunned by many Americans.
Rx: to extend your life and keep your heart healthy, aim to eat three servings of whole grains a day (remember, “3 is key”) and do NOT avoid gluten unless you have been medically diagnosed with celiac disease (experts estimate that only about 1% of Americans have celiac disease) or have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
Here is a list of some whole grains readily available in the supermarket:
Corn, Whole oats/oatmeal, 100% whole wheat flour, Popcorn, Brown rice, Whole-grain barley, Wild rice, Buckwheat, Quinoa.
The bottom line? Eat whole grains (rich in bran) to live longer free of heart disease—the leading cause of death in American men and women!
* “Whole Grain Intake and Mortality: Two Large Prospective Studies in US Men and Women,” Hongyu Wu, Alan J. Flint, Qibin Qi, Rob B. van Dam, Laura A. Sampson, Eric B. Rimm, Michelle D. Holmes, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Bu, Qi Sun, JAMA Internal Medicine, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6283, online Jan. 5, 2015