Whole Grains 101

whole grains 101

Health Studies on Whole Grains

Whole grain bread is healthy.

Every day, more and more studies show the benefits of whole grains. We regularly post new studies here, where you can browse through them at random. Or, you can use our filters to home in on a specific question, such as "Does barley reduce the risk of diabetes?" or "What's the research about whole grains and hypertension?"

Filter the studies below by selecting a grain and/or a disease/condition, then click apply.


Replacing SFAs with Whole Grain Lowers Heart Risk

Whether decreasing saturated fat (SFAs) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)depends on what replaces the SFAs. A review of current research, carried out by Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton at Penn State and others, shows that replacing SFAs with unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated), with lean protein, or with whole grain carbohydrates all reduce CVD risk. However, “replacing SFAs with refined carbohydrate does little to alter risk.”
Current Opinion in Lipidology. 2013 Dec 17 [Epub ahead of print] (Flock et al.)

Whole Wheat May Improve Intestinal Wall Integrity

“Leaky gut” is now widely accepted as a contributor to many diseases. Scientists at Denmark’s National Food Institute and the Technical University of Denmark conducted a 12-week energy-restricted intervention with 70 postmenopausal women to observe the effect of a whole wheat diet (n=37) vs a refined wheat diet (n=33). Women who ate the whole wheat diet had significant increases in beneficial bifidobacteria, and an unexpected increase in “trans-epithelial resistance,” a measure of the permeability of the intestinal wall that shows a decrease in “leaky gut.”
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Dec; 67(12):1316-21. (Christensen et al.)

Higher Whole Grain Intake Linked to Lower Distal Colon Cancer

Scientists at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center collaborated on a study to investigate the link between whole grain intake and colorectal cancer. Rather than rely on whole grain intake estimation, they measured levels of alkylresorcinols, which are biomarkers of whole grain rye and wheat intake, in 1372 colorectal cancer patients and an equal number of controls. They found that those with the highest whole grain intake had the lowest risk of distal colon cancer, but did not find a correlation with colon cancer overall, with proximal colon cancer or with rectal cancer.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2013 Dec 7 [Epub ahead of print] (Kyrø et al.) 

Impact of Whole Grains on Antioxidant Capacity and Periodontitis

Researchers working with Dr. Chris Seal at Newcastle University in the UK carried out an intervention to explore links between diet and periodontal disease. Fifty-one participants (30-65 years old) were divided into two groups; half received customized dietary advice to increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains. At 3 and 6 months post dietary change, the intervention had significantly higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, and at 6 months, higher levels of whole grain consumption; this difference showed up as a significant increase in plasma total antioxidant capacity. However, no differences were observed in periodontal measures.
Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013 Dec 6 [Epub ahead of print] (Zare et al.)

Whole Grains Higher in Phytophenols than Fruits, Vegetables

Scottish researchers, citing increasing evidence that the protective benefit of whole grains is due to positive changes in gut microbiota due to phytophenols from plant fiber, compared the phytophenols in recommended serving sizes of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. They found that the whole grain cereals delivered substantially higher amounts of phytophenols available for metabolism in the colon, which “may, in part, explain the evidence for the protective effects of whole-grain cereals.”
Food Chemistry. 2013 Dec 1; 141(3):2880-6. (Neacsu et al.)

Whole Grain Intake Not Linked to Colorectal Cancer Survival

While many studies have linked whole grain consumption with lower risk of some colon cancers, little research has been done on whether whole grain consumption aids survival once cancer strikes. Scandinavian researchers studied data from the HELGA cohort, and found no evidence of an association between higher whole grain intake and survival rates in Scandinavian patients.
Nutrition and Cancer. 2013 Nov 25 [Epub ahead of print] (Skeie et al.)

Kernel Rye Bread has Lowest Glycemic Impact

To explore differences within the universe of whole grain food options, scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark conducted a randomized cross-over study involving 15 subjects with metabolic syndrome. The subjects sample four kinds of bread: rye bread made with intact kernels, whole wheat bread, whole wheat bread with concentrated arabinoxylan, or whole wheat bread with beta-glucan. The rye kernel bread scored highest on a variety of measures, while the beta-glucan sample also scored well.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Nov 20 [Epub ahead of print] (Hartvigsen et al.)

Reduce Diabetes Risk with Whole Grains

Researchers at Imperial College London  conducted a meta-analysis of 16 studies to explore the association between whole grain intake and type 2 diabetes. They concluded that “a high whole grain intake, but not refined grains, is associated with reduced type 2 diabetes risk.” They suggest the consumption of at least two servings daily of whole grains to reduce T2D risk. 
European Journal of Epidemiology. 2013 Nov; 28(11):845-58. (Aune et al.)

Whole Grains, Nuts, Legumes Protect Cognitive Function

Scientists at Utah State University and Duke University assessed the cognitive function of 3831 men and women 65 or older over an 11-year period, and compared their cognitive abilities with their diet makeup. They found that higher adherence to both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet corresponded with higher cognitive abilities, and that “whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Nov; 98(5):1263-71. (Wengreen et al.)

New WIC food rules: Whole Grain Consumption Up

A cross-sectional study of more than 3.5 million administrative records in the New York State WIC Statewide Information System (WICSIS) was conducted to examine trends from 2008 to 2011 in prevalence of feeding practices after the 2009 implementation of new WIC food packages. Overall positive changes in all reported behaviors were observed. Reported behaviors included daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-/nonfat milk. 
Obesity. July 2013; 21(7): E1-E7. (Chiasson et al.)

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